Speed­boat drug deal­ers botched ferry es­cape bid

Two men who tried to smug­gle nearly £30,000 of cannabis res­cued by lifeboat be­fore cap­ture

The Press and Journal (Inverness, Highlands, and Islands) - - FRONT PAGE -

TWO bungling drug deal­ers who tried to smug­gle nearly £30,000 of drugs into Shet­land were snared af­ter their speed­boat was picked up by Ler­wick lifeboat.

Mitchell Cross and Alas­dair Kelly hatched an elab­o­rate plan to bring a holdall full of cannabis from Aberdeen to Ler­wick via the overnight ferry.

When Cross ar­rived on the is­land, he threw the bag over the side of the ferry to Kelly, who was wear­ing a wet­suit and wait­ing in the speed­boat.

But Ler­wick Sher­iff Court heard this week that things went wrong when Kelly failed to se­cure the boat at the nearby Hay’s Dock – lead­ing to it float­ing out to sea be­fore be­ing res­cued by the Ler­wick lifeboat.

This sparked a full-scale search for Kelly af­ter he was spot­ted swim­ming in the water be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing.

The pair were caught and have been sent to pri­son; Cross for four years and Kelly for two years and four months.

De­tec­tive Sergeant Bruce Peebles said: “Both men played sig­nif­i­cant parts in this elab­o­rate, though ul­ti­mately botched, drug sourc­ing and deal­ing oper­a­tion.

“This in­quiry demon­strated that as well as those based in the main­land of Bri­tain, lo­cally based crim­i­nals are re­spon­si­ble for bring­ing drugs, on this oc­ca­sion on a very large scale, into Shet­land.

“This will not be tol­er­ated and will be in­ves­ti­gated on all oc­ca­sions.”

Two men who tried to smug­gle nearly £30,000 of cannabis into Shet­land have been jailed.

Mitchell Cross, 26, of Ler­wick, was given four years at Ler­wick Sher­iff Court this week, while Alas­dair Kelly, 28, of Sand­wick, was locked up for two years and four months.

The court heard Kelly – in a wet­suit and wait­ing in a speed­boat – picked up a cannabis and cannabis resin-filled holdall Cross had thrown in the water when he ar­rived back in Ler­wick aboard NorthLink freight ship Hel­liar on De­cem­ber 18 2016.

But their plan failed be­cause Kelly had not fully se­cured the speed­boat at nearby Hay’s Dock.

When it floated out to sea it was res­cued by the Ler­wick lifeboat, spark­ing a full-scale search for Kelly, who was seen in the water be­fore dis­ap­pear­ing.

The pair pre­vi­ously ad­mit­ted sup­ply­ing cannabis and cannabis resin from their homes and other ad­dresses and lo­ca­tions in Ler­wick and the Hel­liar be­tween Septem­ber 4 2015 and De­cem­ber 18 2016.

Sher­iff Ian Cruick­shank said the in­ci­dent in De­cem­ber 2016 was prob­a­bly the “tip of the ice­berg” of their drug deal­ing.

Procu­ra­tor fis­cal Dun­can

“A care­fully planned en­deav­our which only just failed”

Macken­zie said the plot was a “so­phis­ti­cated and care­fully planned en­deav­our which only just failed”.

The court heard Cross was the ring­leader, with close friend Kelly help­ing out.

He said Cross had booked a one-way flight to Aberdeen on De­cem­ber 16 2016 for the next day, book­ing him­self back north aboard the Hel­liar.

On the ferry he was then seen with a now-full holdall.

The bag con­tained about 1kg of cannabis and 4kg of cannabis resin.

The freight boat ar­rived in Ler­wick at around 11.30am on De­cem­ber 18 2016, with Kelly on hand in the speed­boat.

The bag was thrown in to the water and picked up by Kelly, who stopped off at Hay’s Dock – but the boat started to drift into the sea.

He re­trieved the holdall but was seen “drip­ping wet” and mak­ing a “pan­icked” phone call to ask to hide at a friend’s house.

Kelly’s de­fence agent, Gre­gor Kelly, said his client was more of a “cog in the wheel”.

Tommy Al­lan, de­fend­ing Cross, said his client had “ac­cepted in full” his in­volve­ment in the deal­ing.

Sher­iff Ian Cruick­shank noted the pair had ad­mit­ted be­ing in­volved in drug deal­ing over 15 months and said their botched job was a “cal­cu­lated and tena­cious ven­ture” symp­to­matic of a “com­mer­cial oper­a­tion for profit”.

UN­DER­WA­TER: The speed­boat used in the foiled smug­gling oper­a­tion was later swamped at Ler­wick’s har­bour

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