Fellow florists speak of shock after Gary Pattison is found guilty of hiding £23.5m of cocaine in Valentine's Day flowers
FLORISTS say the seizure of £23.5 million of cocaine hidden in Valentine's Day flowers had a major impact on the industry.
Millionaire businessman Gary Pattison, 52, is beginning an 18-year sentence for hiding packages of drugs in boxes of yellow chrysanthemums.
Sheffield Crown Court was told Pattison used his haulage business, Sharron Pattison Logistics, to smuggle the drugs into Hull docks.
Customs officers and detectives from the serious crime unit stopped him on February 10 and the drugs were discovered hidden among a delivery of roses, tulips, carnations and chrysanthemums collected from a flower market in Holland.
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The flowers were destined for his shop, also called Sharron Pattison, based at North Point Shopping Centre in Bransholme.
Claire Anderson, business partner at Glenholme Florists in Beverley, said: "I was pretty shocked when I heard about the case and it did have an impact on the industry – especially on the supply market.
"There were thousands of pounds of roses on the lorry which was seized. All the stock that was destined for the area went with the lorry which was seized.
"Luckily, we were not affected too much but, for a lot of florists in Hull, it had a big impact."
Pattison traded under the name of his late wife Sharron, who is believed to have died more than ten years ago.
Mrs Anderson said: "Sharron was well-known in the area as a local trader and worked hard to build up her business.
"I do not know all the circumstances about the drugs case but it doesn't look too positive.
"There is a strong feeling in the floristry industry about what has happened and that with the business carrying her name it is a bad press for her and she is not here to defend herself."
Pattison's fingerprints were found on two of the boxes at the docks.
Throughout his six-day trial, Pattison claimed he had no knowledge of the drugs but the jury of ten men and two women took just three hours to return a unanimous guilty verdict.
Stephen Wharram, of Stephen Wharram florists in Hessle, has known the family for decades.
He said: "I was shocked. I know Gary and had no idea about what happened.
"He would always talk and was a hard-working guy. It takes some believing what has happened.
"The news hasn't had any impact on our business. We're not in their category of florists. We've been busy. The fact people are talking about flowers could even have helped us."
Financial experts have launched an investigation into Pattison's assets and will seize any made through illegal criminal activities.
One company that did suffer during the court case was Janet Pattison florists in Greenwood Avenue, Hull, which isn't associated with Sharron Pattison florists.
A spokesman said: "Initially, we got a couple of threats from people telling us to watch our backs, but they stopped a couple of days ago and I think it was just some idiot.
"Business has been quiet, but I don't think that is down to the court case. I think people are skint at the minute with it being the end of the month."
Another 52-year-old Beverley man, who has known Pattison since childhood, said he is still struggling to believe what has happened.
He said: "He is a bubbly, smiley chap and I find it hard to believe what has happened. I was gobsmacked.
"Gary is very insular and very hard-working."