St Helens man caught driving empty coach containing cocaine worth £19.4m
Two men have been convicted after attempting to smuggle 243kgs of cocaine into the UK on an empty passenger coach.
Drugs with a street value of around £19.4m were found in a coach stopped at Dover Docks in September.
It was being driven by St Helens man Christopher Bullows and Mark Tucker was his only passenger.
A search by Border Force uncovered the cocaine hidden in a specially constructed wastewater tank.
Bullows, 50, of Lord Street, St Helens, told National Crime Agency investigators he had taken the coach to Belgium so the air conditioning system, which was under warranty there, could be repaired.
He said Tucker was a friend and had come along "for the jolly".
Tucker, 53, of Longshaw Street, Blackburn, said he was a mechanic and had joined Bullows on the trip to check on the repairs.
But further inquiries showed the air conditioning had been mended in the UK just months before the trip.
Bullows and Tucker were charged with attempting to import class A drugs.
Both initially denied the charge, but Bullows changed his plea to guilty during a hearing last month at Canterbury Crown Court.
Tucker was convicted by a jury today following a five-day trial at the same court.
Both men will be sentenced on May 21.
NCA branch commander Mark McCormack said: “The account given by Bullows and Tucker about their trip to Belgium was a pitiful attempt to disguise their criminality. This was nothing more than a cynical plot to bring a substantial amount of cocaine into the UK.
“Class A drugs are inextricably linked to violence and exploitation in our communities, and we will continue to work with our partners to target the organised crime groups involved.”