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Hot air Man caught with coach full of cocaine claimed he was only getting air-conditioning unit fixed

Bullows, of Lord Street, St Helens, told investigators from the National Crime Agency that he had taken the coach to Belgium to get the air-conditioning system repaired.

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Mark Tucker (left) has been jailed for 16 years while Christopher Bullows (right) has been sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison.

Mark Tucker (left) has been jailed for 16 years while Christopher Bullows (right) has been sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison.

Mark Tucker (left) has been jailed for 16 years while Christopher Bullows (right) has been sentenced to 14 years and four months in prison.

A man who was caught in the UK with a coach packed full of cocaine claimed he had only driven to Belgium to have the vehicle’s air conditioning unit fixed. 

Christopher Bullows (50) was stopped at Dover docks in September 2020 by Border Force officers who found 243 kilos (536lbs) of cocaine hidden in a specially constructed waste water tank.

The street value of the drugs would have been worth £19.4 million in the UK.

Bullows, of Lord Street, St Helens, told investigators from the National Crime Agency that he had taken the coach to Belgium to get the air-conditioning system repaired.

He claimed his passenger, Mark Tucker, of Longshaw Street in Blackburn, was a friend and had come along "for a jolly."

Tucker, of Longshaw Street in Blackburn, had argued he was a mechanic and had joined Bullows on the trip to check on the repairs.

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The drugs were discovered hidden in a specially constructed wastewater tank

The drugs were discovered hidden in a specially constructed wastewater tank

The drugs were discovered hidden in a specially constructed wastewater tank

The conspiracy was unravelled by the National Crime Agency with the help of the Driver and Vehicle Standards Agency - which was able to demonstrate the movements of the coach by analysing the vehicle's tachograph.

The pair were charged with attempting to import class A drugs and initially denied the charge.

Bullows changed his plea to guilty at Canterbury Crown Court on April 22 and Tucker was convicted by a jury at the same court on May 11 following a five-day trial.

During a hearing on July 6, Tucker was jailed for 16 years and Bullows for 14 years and four months.

NCA Branch Commander Mark McCormack said: "This was a brazen attempt to smuggle a large amount of cocaine into the UK but it hasn't ended well for Tucker and Bullows.

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"Not only was their lethal cargo seized, they are now facing long spells in jail.

"Drugs smuggling is behind violence and exploitation in our communities, with vulnerable people often paying the highest price.

"We will continue to work with partners like Border Force to break the supply chains behind this despicable trade and dismantle the organised crime groups involved."

Dave Smith, Director of Border Force South East, added: “This is a significant sentence that sends a strong message that we will use every effort of UK law enforcement to disrupt criminal networks and stop drugs entering the UK.

“Working closely with NCA our investigations and intelligence worked to protect the UK borders from drug trafficking and bring those responsible to justice.”

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