England

Royal Navy wren jailed for smuggling cocaine on warship

HMS Manchester - Royal Navy
Image caption The drugs were collected when HMS Manchester docked in Colombia

A Royal Navy wren has been jailed for smuggling cocaine into the UK on board a warship which had been on counter-narcotics training.

Teresa Matos, 37, from Gateshead, admitted importing the drugs worth £2m.

The cocaine was found in the lining of Matos's clothing when HMS Manchester arrived in Plymouth, Devon, last August en route to its Portsmouth base.

Matos was jailed for seven-and-a-half years at Portsmouth Crown Court. Three men from London were also jailed.

The Angolan-born steward was granted asylum in Britain in 2004.

Her boyfriend Raul Beia, 39, from Clapham, south-west London, who was also granted asylum to live in the UK, was jailed for 13 years after being found guilty of illegally importing drugs.

Abdul Banda, 34, of Ashbourne Road, Ealing, West London, who pleaded guilty to the charge, was jailed for 10-and-a-half years.

The court was told Beia and Banda were the "ringleaders" of the operation, while Matos was a courier and Dean Langley was recruited to receive and distribute the drugs.

Twenty-year-old Langley, of Clem Attlee Estate, Fulham, west London, who had denied involvement, was sentenced to 11 years.

The court was told Matos picked up the 4.94kg haul of 100% pure cocaine while HMS Manchester had docked at the port of Cartagena in Colombia, South America, in July last year.

CCTV footage

The destroyer, which had been on a seven-month deployment across the Atlantic and South Pacific, had spent time in Cape Verde for counter-narcotics training with the island's coastguard.

It had also visited the US, the Falkland Islands, Brazil and Colombia.

Judge Ian Pearson said: "This was a serious importation of a considerable quantity of cocaine.

"The rewards that were to be made, had you been successful, would have been considerable and the penalties must be considerable as well.

"It goes without saying this offence is so serious that only a custodial sentence of some length may be justified."

Matos, of Contsworth Court, Gateshead, was arrested in Plymouth while Banda was arrested with Beia and Langley at Portsmouth's Ibis Hotel.

The three men had been caught on CCTV purchasing digital scales, plastic boxes and clear food wrap to be used to distribute the drugs.

Judge Pearson ordered for the drugs and paraphernalia to be confiscated and destroyed.

Following the sentencing, the Ministry of Defence said criminal behaviour would not be tolerated in the Royal Navy.

"Individuals given custodial sentences are usually discharged from the service," a spokesman said.

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