Drugs fugitive link to Wigan

David McDermott
David McDermott

A drugs fugitive who was in hiding in Ghana has been jailed for 13 years following his extradition to the UK.

David McDermott, 43, was the last man wanted by authorities in connection with a plot to import 400kg of cocaine from South America which ended up in Wigan.

The father-of-six was arrested in the Ghanaian capital Accra in March this year in a joint operation involving officers from the NCA (National Crime Agency) and the Ghanaian Bureau of National Investigation.

McDermott, formerly of Ormskirk, was a member of a Liverpool-based gang involved in a conspiracy to import and supply cocaine seized from a container of frozen Argentinian beef at Tilbury docks in Essex in May 2013.

The consignment was only detected by chance following an E.coli scare which enabled the authorities to replace blocks of the Class A drug in 16 holdalls with house bricks.

The onward delivery was then secretly tracked to its destination at a cold storage depot in Miry Lane, Wigan and led to the uncovering of those involved.

Wigan businessman Liam Dooney, who owned the storage company where the consignment was taken, was later unanimously cleared of involvement in the conspiracy by a jury.

At McDermott’s hearing William Baker, prosecuting, told Liverpool Crown Court that the cocaine was of 79 per cent purity and had a potential street value of about £70 million.

McDermott split his time between the UK and Ghana during the plot and was set to take a 50 kilogram load of the smuggled cocaine, the court heard.

McDermott pleaded guilty at an earlier hearing to conspiracy to import cocaine between January and May 2013.

David Nolan, for McDermott, said his client had four children in the UK and a wife and two children in Ghana, one who was aged six months and who he had not seen because of his incarceration.

He said McDermott had been working hard to provide for his family in Ghana and since the drugs plot appeared to have undergone a complete change in lifestyle.

This involved his connections with a church which, along with his wife, his mother-in-law and his parents, had passed references to the judge.

Mr Nolan said McDermott was enduring “a tough experience” in custody and had recently been diagnosed with Crohn’s disease while on remand at HMP Manchester.

His previous drugs convictions were minor in nature compared to the matter before the court, he added, and McDermott had only unsuccessfully contested and then appealed against the extradition proceedings because he wished to be dealt with in Ghana.

Sentencing, Judge Alan Conrad QC accepted McDermott’s involvement was limited to only part of the consignment but pointed out: “This was still a very considerable quantity of high grade cocaine in which you were involved.

“The value was enormous and the impact would have been enormous if the drugs had reached the streets.”

Shortly after his arrest, the Mirror Online reported that McDermott lived in the affluent Burma Hills area of Accra with his wife, the daughter of the governor of the country’s central bank.

Sources told the website that McDermott was “in essence living like an African king” through his well-placed connections.

NCA senior investigating officer Joanne Ralfs said: “McDermott was the logistics man for a crime group whose members were willing to use extreme violence.

“He was an integral part, looking after transportation and making sure the job went ahead.”