A LORRY driver caught with up to £5m worth of cocaine hidden in a consignment of frozen pizzas - destined for the streets of Greater Manchester - has been jailed for 14 years.

Detectives say Vladan Petrovic had 50 kilos of the class A drug when he was snared at a warehouse in Heywood.

Warehouse staff had become suspicious of the 30-year-old Serbian national and alerted police.

And when officers descended on the premises, they found cocaine stashed in his trailer and a holdall in his cabin.

He had begun his journey in Italy, where his refrigerated HGV trailer was legitimately loaded with a shipment of frozen pizzas.

The drugs were smuggled aboard the lorry en-route, 31 kilos located in the trailer and 19 kilos in the holdall, say detectives. Petrovic drove across Europe and entered the UK at Dover, before travelling to Heywood.

Petrovic was found guilty of importation and possession with intent to supply the drugs after a Manchester Crown Court trial.

Police say the haulier was brought to book due to eagle-eyed staff at Lineage Logistics.

Workers became suspicious when they unloaded the cargo and contacted police, leading to Petrovic's arrest.

Detectives say when they questioned him, Petrovic claimed it was a case of mistaken identity, telling detectives the illegal load was destined for another HGV driver who looked like him. He claimed he thought the items were something of value but was unaware what they were.

Speaking after the case, Det Con Marshall Trower said: "Petrovic's greed has outweighed the obvious risks of importing cocaine into the UK - he went to great lengths to try and secrete this illicit haul within his HGV, piggy-backing a legitimate load of perishable goods to try and hasten and circumvent checks at the UK border.

"There is no doubt that this haul of cocaine would have been distributed to organised crime groups across the UK, including in Greater Manchester, ending up in the hands of gangs involved in exploitation and violence.

"I hope that this sentence will serve as a reminder to any HGV driver, pilot or other key criminal facilitator that the court recognise the importance of their role, and will sentence as such."