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Three in court over huge drugs haul

Six men, including the son of a retired police officer, who were charged in connection with a £500,000 drugs seizure were allegedly recruited by a crime gang because they had no criminal records.

Yesterday, police arrested a woman aged 20 in connection with the haul. A seventh man was released unconditionally.

The High Court heard yesterday the suspects were arrested during raids in Portstewart which netted suspected amphetamines and the largest haul of Ecstasy tablets recovered in Northern Ireland in the last three years.

Drugs were found hidden in the walls and stuffed into a sofa at a flat, prosecutors said.

A further batch was discovered under loft insulation in the attic of a second property.

Details were disclosed during bail applications by three of the men facing charges including possessing Class A and Class B drugs with intent to supply and conspiracy to supply.

Matthew McGookin (23), of The Promenade, Portstewart, was granted bail to stay at his retired police officer parent’s home in Coleraine. But co-accused James Platt (20), from Coleraine Road, Portrush, and Daniel Morrow (20), also of The Promenade, were ordered to remain in custody.

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The court heard detectives staged an operation last Friday after receiving information that two other suspects were moving drugs between two properties.

Three large bags of blue tablets and five bags of white powder were found at the flat on The Promenade while more suspected Ecstasy was recovered from a house in the Millfort Close area.

An estimated 90,000 Ecstasy tablets and 1/3kg of amphetamines was confiscated.

Crown counsel Kate McKay said: “The combined estimated street value of the drugs is in the region of half a million pounds and that would make it the largest seizure of Ecstasy in Northern Ireland in the last three years.”

She told the court police believe the accused were targeted by members of an organised crime gang due to their lack of records.

It was claimed the flat on The Promenade — rented by Mr Morrow — was being used as a safe house to store the drugs.

Mr McGookin's barrister told the court his client only moved into the flat three to four weeks ago after agreeing to sub-let a room from Mr Morrow. He said Mr McGookin knew nothing about the drugs, none of which were found in his bedroom.

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