Crime gang members jailed over cocaine plot

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The Independent Online

A crime gang caught trying to smuggle cocaine worth £10 million into Britain on a yacht were jailed today.

Customs men swooped just 15 miles off the Cornish coast as the smugglers prepared to complete a transatlantic crossing.

Southwark Crown Court heard the boat had been tracked after being bought in Trinidad and loaded with 200lbs of cocaine in South America.

Douglas Wood, 59, and David Coxon, 54, were arrested at the helm of the £24,500 vessel on September 12, 2008.

A Metropolitan Police spokesman said Wood, of Sandwich Bay, Kent, was jailed for 23 years and Coxon, of Middle Street, Newcastle, was jailed for 15 years.

Wood was found guilty of conspiracy to import 91 kilos of cocaine, while Coxon pleaded guilty to the same offence at an earlier hearing.

After several guilty verdicts were returned last December, police revealed other gang members were also involved in armed cash van robberies.

Investigators merged two separate inquiries which involved Flying Squad and organised crime teams.

Police said two men, Patrick Walsh and John Dunlop, were responsible for preparing to rob a series of cash vans in Hertfordshire.

But during a surveillance operation, officers discovered Walsh wanted to smuggle cocaine into Britain on the yacht.

He made repeated trips to Trinidad, Tobago, Barbados and Grenada using the false name of Michael Sheridan. On some occasions he was joined by Wood.

Wood and Coxon eventually set sail from Grenada, falsely telling customs they were heading to Brazil. Instead they picked up the drugs in Guyana and headed to Britain.

Meanwhile, the other gang members were in Britain preparing for a cash van heist in Barking, east London.

On August 21, 2008, they were caught red-handed by armed police carrying two pistols and ammunition.

A week later Walsh was caught carrying a handgun, gloves and a balaclava at a Total petrol station in Denham, Hertfordshire.

The police spokesman added that Walsh, 48, of Blairhead Drive, Watford, was jailed for 21 years today. Walsh admitted importing cocaine, possessing a handgun and conspiracy to commit robbery.

Dunlop, 52, of St Leonards-on-Sea, was jailed for eight years at an earlier hearing after being found guilty of possessing two guns and ammunition.

He was jailed for 15 years, to run concurrently, today after being found guilty of conspiracy to commit robbery