05 Oct 2022

'Cocaine runner' caught in Derry with £150,000 of coke for drugs gang jailed for over three years

A self-confessed cocaine runner caught transporting and keeping £150,000 of cocaine for a drugs gang to which he owed £5,000, has been jailed for three years and four months at Derry Crown Court. John Clifford Moorehead, 42, who is originally from Antrim, had been on remand in Maghaberry Prison since he was caught with the drugs near Eglinton on November 9 of last year. Moorehead pleaded guilty to possessing with intent to supply 2.25 kilos of cocaine which had a purity level of up to fourteen percent. A barrister for the Public Prosecution Service told Judge Philip Babington that members of the PSNI's Criminal Investigation Branch, in an intelligence lead operation, stopped a grey Volvo car being driven by Moorehead along the Clooney Road last November 9. An initial search of Moorehead and of his car proved negative in terms of drugs, but the defendant was arrested on suspicion of committing drugs offences. During his detention in Strand Road Police Station officers searched his then home address at Birch Hill Meadows in Antrim. There they found six blocks of cocaine hidden in socks inside a laundry basket in the front bedroom. Inside the bedroom the police also found weighing scales and under the staircase they found a smaller quantity of cocaine. The police then carried out a more intensive search of Moorehead's car and concealed in the front headrests they found another twelve blocks of cocaine, six blocks in each headrest. All of the cocaine was already cut and was ready to bag and sell. Moorehead told the police that he had been pressurised by a drugs gang, the members of which he refused to name, to transport and store the drugs to pay off his debt to them. "The police believe he was used as a runner for more intimately involved people", the prosecutor said Defence barrister Eoghan Devlin said Moorehead was "low in the pecking order" in relation to his drugs involvement. He said that Moorehead, a qualified mechanic, sought solace in alcohol and drugs following personal issues in his life in 2012. As a result of his cocaine addiction he accrued a £5,000 debt to drugs dealers who then used his debt as leverage to get him to transport and store drugs for them. Mr. Devlin said Moorehead made no financial gains from his involvement with the drugs gang. "He could never have re-paid his debt to them and that suited them because they could then prey on somebody like the defendant to carry drugs for them at no personal risk to themselves", Mr. Devlin said. Judge Babington said the police accepted that Moorehead had been pressurised and had been under duress to transport the drugs. "He had been pressurised by drugs dealers to transport the drugs to Derry. His instructions were to leave his car parked in a car park outside shops where presumably the car was then to be collected. "He became the sort of person that those who control the supply of drugs can lean on. He was used as a runner to both store and transport the drugs by those more intimately involved. "No matter how one looks at this, this is very serious offending and the people who act like this must get a deterrent sentence to deter others from doing it in the future", Judge Babington said.

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