48 years in jail for Hull docks heroin gang
A GANG that smuggled £500,000 of pure heroin through Hull docks has been jailed for almost 50 years.
The heroin was hidden in a lorry trailer which came into the city on a ferry from Zeebrugge.
Border Force officers found 5.5kg of heroin in the trailer after it had been driven to a trailer park in Killingholme, North Lincolnshire.
The drugs were contained in 32 parcels, which had been hidden in adapted metal bars in the trailer.
David Mather, 56, Stephen Tudge, 52, and William Pearson, 52, were all found guilty of conspiring to smuggle the drugs into the country after a two-week trial at Sheffield Crown Court.
Mather was jailed for 18 years, Tudge for 16 years and Pearson for 14 years.
Officers estimate the drugs had a street value of £582,750.
Sam Bullimore, assistant director of Border Force, said: "This was a serious, organised crime group and a highly sophisticated attempt to smuggle heroin into the country.
"These drugs were tightly packed and hidden within the superstructure, which is not easy to find.
"We never pretend we stop everything from coming into the country and, although this came through Hull, we stopped them in Killingholme before these drugs got on to the streets."
Mr Bullimore welcomed the lengthy jail sentences handed down to the men.
"The sentences reflect how people view drug smuggling, particularly of heroin," he said.
"Heroin is a particularly pernicious drug which destroys lives and leads to lots of criminality, so I am very pleased we have taken five kilos of it off the streets."
Mr Bullimore said there is now a team of specialist officers at Hull's King George Docks to target freight which comes into the city onboard ferries.
"We have many ways of making checks, but our officers are our best assets," said Mr Bullimore.
"We deploy our resources accordingly and we now have a specialist team of officers to deal with freight. Their role is to specialise in checking the trailers that come in and we have had some real successes because of that."
The men were in regular contact with each other before the drugs were seized on May 7, 2010.
Following a year-long investigation, Mather and Tudge were arrested in May 2011. Pearson was arrested in December 2011.
All three denied any knowledge of the drugs or how they had ended up in the lorry but gave conflicting reports of the events leading up to the seizure when questioned.
Malcolm Bragg, from Border Force, said: "Drug smuggling is a despicable crime. Mather, Tudge and Pearson's criminal enterprise failed and our officers prevented a significant amount of heroin from reaching UK streets.
"This was a long and complex investigation into what was a sophisticated smuggling attempt.
"The sentences given to this gang should serve as a warning for others involved in this disgusting trade. We will catch you and you will spend many years in jail."
The three men are from Greater Manchester.