Top manager's daughter gets 11 years for drugs

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The Independent Online
The pregnant daughter of a wealthy businessman was jailed for 11 years yesterday for smuggling pounds 400,000 worth of cocaine into Britain.

Sara Westwood, 23, broke down in tears as sentence was passed at Isleworth Crown Court in west London. Westwood, who has a three-year-old son, was convicted with three accomplices after a two-and-a-half week trial last month.

Westwood, whose father Roger is head of Hogg Robinson Financial Services, was jailed after being caught trying to bring a suitcase with more than two kilogrammes of cocaine hidden inside into Heathrow airport last April.

Sentencing her, Judge Michael Oppenheimer said: "I have taken account in considering the sentence the circumstances in which your counsel says you were in at the time you were attracted into this trade.

"In particular, I have considered your personal history, your background, the abusive relationships that you had had before this offence was committed, and the depression that you suffered."

Tony Walker, 31, from Croydon, south London, who admitted his part in the smuggling plot, was jailed for seven years. Two minders who met the couple at Heathrow - Lanceford Wallace, 25, and Cedric Edwards, 34, both from Lewisham, south-east London - were jailed for 12 years and 11 years.

The judge said: "You were a knowing courier of a comparatively large importation of a class A drug. You, like all your co-defendants, have taken part in a disgusting and terrible trade. All four of you knew before you committed the crime that the drugs trade causes destruction and death to other people."

At the trial the court was told that Westwood and Walker tried to disguise their route from the Caribbean by travelling home via Frankfurt. But police in Trinidad, where Westwood had been staying after accepting a free holiday, were already aware of them.

Officers in Germany were alerted and sniffer dogs detected the 4.6 kilogrammes of cocaine divided between Westwood and Walker's suitcases. The pair were followed to London's Heathrow Airport, where Customs officers were waiting.

Westwood, from Sulham in Berkshire, told the court that she had no idea that there were drugs in the suitcase. She said that a man she met in Trinidad, Mikey, had packed her suitcase while she was in the shower.

Judge Oppenheimer told the court that Westwood was a very intelligent girl who had constructed a defence for herself.

Her counsel, Bernard Phelvin, said: "One thing that does appear quite plain is that she is gullible and foolish.

"Her defence was a desperate attempt by someone in terrible trouble to talk her way out of a desperate situation. She was a person who was easily led," he added.

He told the court that convent-educated Westwood was a woman who found it difficult to make friends. "She was a plainly desperate asthmatic child, finding it difficult to make friends perhaps in the way that teenagers and children do. Compromising her values was a way to achieve what popularity she could among her friends because of her background."

Westwood's family were in court yesterday when sentence was passed. During the trial, Mr Westwood insisted that his daughter was the innocent dupe of the drug gang. He said she had been targeted because of her innocence.