Belfast Telegraph

PSNI had drugs gang under watch, court hears

By George Jackson

Details of a police surveillance operation against members of an organised drugs gang were revealed for the first time before a jury at the Crown Court in Londonderry yesterday.

The disclosures were made during the first day of the trial of a Co Down man who denies supplying 4.95 kilos of cannabis valued at up to £99,000.

The defendant, Michael Anthony Hughes, a 41-year-old barber from Grange Meadows in Kilkeel, denies supplying the drugs or possessing criminal property of £10,470 in cash on September 22 last year.

Special security measures were put in place in Court 4 for the hearing of evidence from a member of the surveillance team. Curtains and a screen were erected around the witness box to conceal the officer's identity.

Two Derry men, Christopher Lavy and Ruaira Hannigan, have already pleaded guilty to charges linked to the cannabis seizure and are awaiting sentencing.

The barrister said officers involved in the surveillance operation observed a black VW Golf and a red van parked in a lay-by at Knockwellan Park. A man removed two black bin liners from the back of the van and put them into the Golf.

The car, driven by Lavy, drove off and was followed by officers in an unmarked car.

Near Strabane Old Road the officers switched on blue flashing lights and indicated to Lavy to stop, but he accelerated and collided with several parked cars before crashing into a minibus.

Inside the vehicle the police found the bin liners contained cannabis, and seized a mobile phone from Lavy. Officers subsequently searched the Harper's Quay flat rented by Lavy and Hannigan and found more cannabis.

Meanwhile, the hired red van driven by the defendant Hughes was stopped at the Hillhead Road near Toomebridge. Inside the van the police found £10,470, a phone and a hand drawn map. The mobile phone was examined and found to have been in contact with Lavy's.

The prosecutor said Hughes made a no comment interview after his arrest, and claimed the mobile phone contact he'd had was with a woman he had travelled to meet with in Derry, and not Lavy.

The trial continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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