England

Three face jail for £2.5m light aircraft cocaine drop in Faversham field

Three men are facing jail after admitting using a light aircraft to drop a large quantity of cocaine over the Kent countryside.

Andrew Barrett, Michael Mealing, and Jonathan Hart were being watched by the National Crime Agency before the drop on 23 June last year.

The high-purity cocaine had a wholesale value of over £1m and a potential street value of £2.5m.

All three pleaded guilty to importing the drug and are awaiting sentencing.

Barrett also admitted possessing class A and B drugs with intent to supply and money laundering.

Father-of-three Barrett, 41, of Cheddington, near Leighton Buzzard in Bedfordshire, Mealing, 41, of Corsham, Wiltshire, and Hart, 60, of no fixed abode, appeared at the Old Bailey to be sentenced.

Together the men plotted drop-off sites and carried out reconnaissance, unaware they were under surveillance.

'Decent family man'

Investigators watched as a plane flew low over one of the sites, before Mealing and Hart drove away. They were followed and arrested.

In the boot of the car, officers found 31kg of cocaine in three fuel containers packaged with heavy-duty tape.

Later, Barrett was spotted in Watford in a white van and apprehended.

In the van was 18kg of cocaine, 1kg of MDMA and 15kg of cannabis.

The stash had a combined street value of more than £1.5m, the court heard.

Referring to Barrett's activities following the arrests of his cohorts, prosecutor Heidi Stonecliffe said: "He effectively moved his stash lock, stock and barrel in a van to somewhere where he thought it would not be found."

Mitigating, Sarah Forshaw QC said Barrett got mixed up in the drugs trade while in Spain and is a "hard working construction project manager" well-known for being a "decent family man".

She added: "He was astonished how one moment he was living an ordinary respectable life and the next moment he was in a completely different world."

She said Barrett was to be paid £7,000 for his part in the plot.

Sentencing will take place on Friday.