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£5m frozen chicken' drugs gang of pensioners jailed 37 years

PUBLISHED: 22:04 01 October 2009 | UPDATED: 14:58 05 October 2010

£5m haul and (insets) two of the gang, Rowe and O’Cuneff

£5m haul and (insets) two of the gang, Rowe and O'Cuneff

A CRIMINAL network led by pensioners with a combined age of 312 imported at least £5 million of drugs hidden in a consignment of frozen chicken. They were jailed today for a total of 37 years after a judge warned them of "a lengthy spell in jail in your twilight years"

By Mike Brooke

A CRIMINAL network led by pensioners with a combined age of 312 imported at least £5 million of drugs hidden in a consignment of frozen chicken.

They were jailed today (Thurs) for a total of 37 years after a judge at Southwark crown court warned them of “a lengthy spell in jail in your twilight years.”

Police caught the twilight gang’ unloading two tonnes of cannabis imported from Holland at a warehouse near Tilbury in Essex in March.

They arrested five men, three of them pensioners, for conspiracy to import controlled drugs. Another two fled the scene and are still on the run.

Searches of the warehouse uncovered 12 pallets containing two tonnes of cannabis.

Further searches were made at eight addresses in London and Essex, at Bethnal Green, Isle of Dogs, Rotherhithe, Norwood, Beckenham and Grays.

John Rowe (pictured, left), a 70-year-old from Mansford Street in Bethnal Green, was convicted by a jury of importing drugs and jailed for seven years.

Russell O’Cuneff (pictured, right), a 50-year-old from Glen Garknock Avenue, Millwall, on the Isle of Dogs, admitted importing drugs and got six years.

Two from south London also pleaded guilty. Wattie Souter, a 68-year-old from Rotherhithe, got nine-and-a-half years, and Patrick Maloney, a 54-year-old from Walworth, got seven years.

Warehouse manager Derek Mercer, 70, from Norwood, was found guilty and landed an eight-year sentence. Two more were also jailed after admitting their part in the smuggling.

Judge Martin Beddoe told the gang: “The older someone gets, the less excuse they have for getting involved in crime, particularly when it’s planned and organised.

“You knew full well what the consequences would be if caught—a lengthy spell in jail in your twilight years.”

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