'Cocaine' pub landlord jailed for 20 years

A pub landlord identified as the "managing director" of a gang who smuggled cocaine worth £3.5 million into the UK in a light aircraft has been jailed for 20 years.

The 14kg of the drug were smuggled into Mona airfield on Anglesey, North Wales, from Le Touquet in northern France in July 2009 in a private plane owned by David Watson, 54, from Prestwich, Manchester.

Today Judge William George sentenced Watson to 20 years in prison after he was found guilty of conspiring to smuggle class A drugs following a seven-week trial at Liverpool Crown Court.

He said Watson was the principal organiser behind the plan, adding: "You were always in the background controlling matters at a distance."

Addressing Watson and his co-accused Michael Cahillane, 45, from Stockport, Manchester and Richard McArthur, 45, from Carrickfergus, Northern Ireland, Judge George said the courts were "reminded every day" of the consequences of the "evil trade" of drug dealing.

"Your offences hit at the fabric of our society," he said.

The court heard that Watson conspired with others to smuggle the drug cache into the country by using his single-engine four-seater plane.

The trial heard that the drugs were picked up in France by former soldier Mathew Lockwood, 29, from Prestwich, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to smuggle class A drugs at an earlier hearing.

The court heard that the smuggling took place when Watson was in the US but that he "was in control of the operation".

Kevin Slack, prosecuting, said: "To use the analogy of a business, the Crown say David Watson was the managing director."

He said Watson's motive was "greed".

When the plane touched down in France, Lockwood went to pick up the drugs from McArthur, the court heard.

However, the jury accepted McArthur did not know the package contained cocaine and that he thought he was smuggling cannabis.

When the plane landed back in Mona airfield it was searched by police and the cocaine was found.

Previously the court was told that Watson, who owns The Plough pub in Prestwich, had a "net worth" of £980,000.

The court was told he was a property developer who had built up a significant "property portfolio" over the past 30 years.

Cahillane, who pleaded guilty to conspiring to smuggle class A drugs, was sentenced to 16 years and was sentenced on the basis that he was an "organiser" and helped to set up meetings between Watson's organised crime group and an unidentified drug dealer in Spain. He was also sentenced to three months for possession of a stun gun.

McArthur was sentenced to a total of six years in jail after he also pleaded guilty to a separate charge of trying to smuggle cannabis in a car through the Channel Tunnel in May 2010.

Lockwood's sentencing hearing was adjourned until June 13.

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