Florist Gary Pattison 'didn't turn to drug running to save his business'
A FLORIST accused of smuggling £23.5 million of cocaine hidden in flowers has denied drug running to save his business.
Gary Pattison, 52, is accused of smuggling 84kg of cocaine into the city, hidden in Valentine's Day flowers.
Port officials discovered the high-quality cocaine hidden among yellow chrysanthemums in the back of his truck in three long rectangular boxes among bouquets and hundreds of loose flowers.
At Sheffield Crown Court, Mr Pattison told the jury he was confident his haulage business would "come good" despite evidence that it had lost £1 million in seven years.
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He denied drug running to keep it afloat and told the jury if he sold his businesses, he would still make a £460,000 profit.
Mr Pattison said: "I never turned to drug running. I feel the haulage side will come good. It is still OK. I think it is slowly turning around to what it was."
Mr Pattison was stopped in his lorry on February 10 as he returned to Hull from the flower market in Aalsmeer, Holland.
He told the jury he had loaded 17 trolleys of flowers into his truck and had not checked his order.
He said: "My trolleys are prepared for me by an agent.
"The boxes of flowers are already on the trolley, then I put the trolleys on the lorry.
"I only handle things on the trolley if I can make more room. I bring back already loaded trolleys.
"It is on trust the order is correct. I have been doing it like that many years, if there was a problem then I would ring them."
His barrister Neil Flewitt QC asked him: "Would you unpack every trolley and check what is inside?"
Mr Pattison replied: "It would be impossible. I would never make the ferry back again."
Sheffield Crown Court heard the three boxes containing the drugs were up to six times heavier than the other boxes of flowers and Mr Pattison's fingerprints were on two of the boxes.
Mr Pattison told the jury his fingerprints must have got onto the boxes when he was stopped by customs officers in Hull and had helped them unload the boxes of drugs from the trolley.
He said: "The customs officer said it was heavy so I went to push it.
"I had my hand on one box and to stop myself hitting my head on a shelf, I placed my hand on another box. That is the only time I touched them.
"When she opened the box, that was the first time I had seen the drugs."
Under cross-examination, prosecutor Paul Mitchell told him: "You understand that the Crown says this – presumably for a large amount of money, you agreed to have your lorry used to bring these drugs into the city.
"Somebody made a decision to put these boxes on your trolley and they did that because they knew you were willing to bring drugs back for them.
"You never said a word about touching these boxes when they were unloaded, did you, even though the importance of it must have been obvious."
Mr Pattison denied he had been willing to bring the drugs into the country.
He said: "I just didn't know they were there."
Mr Pattison, of Ferry Lane, Woodmansey, denies importing illegal Class A drugs into the country and the trial continues.