Drug smuggler jailed

SUFFOLK'S customs officers are celebrating today after a drug dealer who tried to smuggle £1.4million of ecstasy into the country was jailed for 14 years.

SUFFOLK'S customs officers are celebrating today after a drug dealer who tried to smuggle £1.4million of ecstasy into the country was jailed for 14 years.

Roofing contractor Anthony Purcell, was caught after an early morning high-speed car chase while trying to avoid officers from the county's customs investigation service.

Customs spokesman John Barber, said: "This was an inquiry led by investigators from our Ipswich office. Not only are we pleased we've been able to take well over 150,000 tablets of ecstasy off the market, the sentence will hopefully be a warning to others who feel that that they can get involved in this evil business. Ecstasy is a Class A drug and extremely dangerous."

A covert investigation, code named Operation Height, was set up to ensnare the 35-year-old drug dealer who was a major player in the smuggling operation.

Officers from Ipswich observed Purcell at a hotel in Dover meeting the occupants of an Audi car that had just arrived from France just after midnight on March 9 last year.

Purcell in his Mercedes and the Audi were followed to a service station on the M20 near Maidstone.

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Around 4.30am four of the occupants of Audi were arrested but Purcell evaded customs and marked police cars in an attempt to avoid capture.

Police officers became involved in a high-speed chase down the M20 between junctions 8 and 4 and saw items being thrown from the car before the Mercedes turned off the motorway and on to country roads.

The chase was abandoned when the vehicle was travelling at high speeds in urban areas, making it too hazardous to continue the pursuit.

On retracing their route police officers discovered approximately 6 kilos of ecstasy tablets near the point where the bags were thrown from the car.

Two days later a further 18 bags of tablets were found by a member of the public walking his dog adjacent to where the Mercedes car had been abandoned at West Malling in Kent. In all just over 41 kilos of the drug was found.

"We are extremely grateful to the person who found them and reported them to the authorities before they could do any real harm," said Mr Barber.

"The consequences of these dumped drugs being found by young children are too horrible to contemplate."

Purcell was eventually arrested by customs investigators in August close to Snaresbrook Crown Court in east London during the trial of four other people charged with trying to import the drugs into the UK and charged with drug smuggling and possession with intent to supply.

Those four people, the occupants of the Audi, were acquitted following a trial at the court

Purcell, of Pettits Lane, Romford, was jailed for 14 years at Snaresbrook Crown Court for his part in the smuggling operation. He had pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply at an earlier hearing in December. He was also disqualified from driving for 6 years.