Gardai believe cocaine mule was working for gang supplying Dublin market
Gardai believe that a Brazilian drugs mule who smuggled cocaine was working for a gang supplying the Dublin market.
John Kennedy Santos Gurjao (24) died a gruesome death last Sunday after some of the estimated 80 pellets of cocaine he is believed to have swallowed in Lisbon burst one hour into an Aer Lingus flight from Lisbon to Dublin.
It is estimated the drugs had a street value of around €56,000.
The Gardai are working with police in Brazil and Portugal to find out where he got the cocaine and who he was to deliver the consignment to in Dublin.
They believe he is one of several mules used by international drugs gangs to smuggle cocaine in quantities of up to a kilo per person to dealers in the capital.
A Portuguese woman travelling on an Angolan passport on the same flight from Lisbon was quizzed by detectives at Togher garda station but was later released without charge.
Gardai were suspicious after 4lbs of white powder was found in her luggage. Tests later showed it was a type of Brazilian baking agent. The woman runs a language school in Dublin. They both boarded the plane at Lisbon last Sunday afternoon. The plane was diverted to Cork after John Gurjao became ill one hour into the flight.
Witnesses described how he became extremely violent and then seriously ill, biting a passenger who came to his aid.
One witness, John Leonard, said: "He was actually on the ground shaking violently. The noise he was making was like something I have never heard before. It's not something you'd hear everyday. It was like deep anguish is the best way I could describe it . . . very, very troubled."
In a statement, the Garda Press Office said: "The flight was diverted to Cork Airport when the man on board became agitated. He was attended to by a doctor and nurse who were on the flight but was pronounced dead at the airport at 6.40pm."
Arrangements are being made through the Brazilian embassy to repatriate John Gurjao's body to his family in Brazil. That is expected to happen this week.
John Gurjao grew up in Calcoene. His aunt, Lourdes Gurjao, told reporters that he had left Calcoene a year ago "to survive" after his parents passed away and his family were unaware that he had even left Brazil.
Fr Pat McNamara, a Spiritan priest based in Sao Paolo in Brazil, said drug mules were "a huge problem, and not just flying people from here to Ireland, but from here to all over Europe".
He added that most people agreed to be drug mules either through force or out of desperation.
A Revenue spokesperson said the "bulk of swallowers" it detects are cocaine smuggling in quantities of around one kilo. Most are of West African or South American nationality.
Drugs are wrapped in latex or rubber but stomach acids can cause pellets to rupture and death is rapid.