Two men were jailed after police discovered £1.2m of heroin and more than £500,000 in cash hidden at their homes. Tightly-packaged heroin parcels were found stashed underneath floorboards, concealed by a carpet, in Lawrence Flaherty’s loft.
According to the Liverpool Echo, police had watched taxi driver Peter Byrne hand over a suitcase full of rolled-up banknotes to the debt-ridden alcoholic. Officers raided Flaherty’s flat in St Helens and uncovered 12 kilos of heroin, with an estimated street value of £1.2m.
When asked if there was anything in his home that shouldn’t be there, he replied: “Yes, half a million pounds in that suitcase.”
Liverpool Crown Court heard Flaherty, 52, was a “custodian”, while Byrne, 57, was a “courier” for a Class A drugs gang.
Officers spied on Flaherty as he left his flat in Scholes Lane, then walked to Heath Street, at 11.34am on August 18 this year. He met Byrne, who handed him a black suitcase containing £535,830 of dirty money, which he pulled back to his flat.
Dad-of-three Byrne parked his car nearby, then followed Flaherty into his property, now carrying a black holdall.
William Baker, prosecuting, said the pair left the flat and drove off in Byrne’s car at 12.34pm.
Police stormed Flaherty’s home at 5.50pm and found him in the kitchen, when he confessed about the money. Officers searched his flat and recovered the drug stash, which he immediately conceded was heroin.
A further £2,340 in cash was found in his flat, before officers set off to Byrne’s home in Ardennes Road, Huyton. They discovered £34,000 in the glove box of his car, plus £2,750 in cash and 7,400 in Turkish Lira inside his house.
Officers also visited Byrne’s dad’s home, where they found a further £2,000 belonging to him.
When interviewed by police, Byrne said he was a taxi driver, but initially made no comment about the money. He claimed to have taken two empty bags into Flaherty’s flat, before admitting he was given the cash and asked to “pass it on”.
Mr Baker said: “When asked questions about where the cash came from, he made no comment.”
Flaherty, who has no previous convictions, admitted possession of heroin with intent to supply and concealing criminal property
Kate Morley, defending, said apologetic Flaherty worked as a labourer, but when a relationship ended, turned to alcohol “as a coping mechanism”.
She said he borrowed “a couple of thousand pounds” and was “somewhat pressured, because he couldn’t pay back the debt, into storing drugs and cash.”
Byrne, from Huyton, whose last conviction was for dishonesty in 1981, admitted two counts of money laundering. Jonathan Duffy, defending, said Byrne was a “family man” with three grown-up children, who worked hard as a taxi driver.
He said: “Unfortunately for him, money became tight and he made the catastrophic decision to agree to extend his transportation business to include moving money around.”
Judge Norman Wright jailed Flaherty for seven years and four months. He said: “People involved in the chain of supply of Class A drugs deal in misery and degradation of the people in thrall to those drugs.
“Not infrequently, those people die. Approximately 2,000 people in England and Wales in the last year died from taking Class A drugs.
“That is why these are serious offences and people who are involved in dealing in this evil trade deserve condign punishment.”
Jailing Byrne for three years, the judge said he was “the perfect cover” for moving dirty cash.
He said: “Of course a taxi driver is someone who will be seen all about any town or city, going anywhere, at any time, and really not being questioned. You were under the radar.”
A Covingham taxi driver whose vehicle was broken into has criticised the reaction of police, after being told he should collate evidence of the crime himself.
Ian Hunt, 60, felt the crime wasn’t being taken seriously, after being told that he should gather shards of glass and other items in the car which had been handled by the vandals into a plastic bag, for police officers to collect when they arrived at the scene.
The incident comes after Wiltshire Police were criticised in the wake of a spate of thefts from taxis and minicabs over the last year, with thieves smashing windows and stealing satellite navigation systems, dashboard cameras and cash.
Ian told the Swindon Advertiser: “There are thousands of pieces of glass everywhere, and I was told by the police to pick up the large shards of glass and put them into an envelope.
“There are things inside which have been touched, the glove box has been opened, the steering wheel must have been touched as well.
“The annoying thing is that they’ve admitted that the fingerprints will get worse over time. This is happening a lot, the exact same thing, so obviously it’s an ongoing situation.”
The incident occurred in the early hours of a recent Thursday morning, and officers from Wiltshire Police’s CSI unit attended the scene later that afternoon.
But Ian felt that more needed to be done to tackle the targeting of taxis, and wanted to raise awareness of the high risk to cabs in the area. He said: “Taxis are clearly being targeted, be-cause there’s another car on the drive which wasn’t touched at all.
“It’s a serious, ongoing problem, and the attitude of police doesn’t help – obviously every crime gets categorised, but there’s no such thing as a good crime, is there?
“How would you feel if you’ve had your car window broken, and you know there’s stuff that might have been touched, and you’re told to collect it yourself?
“This is definitely not what you would call an isolated incident. This is a serious thing, it is affecting people’s businesses and livelihoods.”
Ian’s complaints echo those of minicab driver Benson Mwangi, who said that more needed to be done to tackle the targeting of taxis by thieves.
He said: “I think the police need to divert more resources to this area.
“These days they don’t even visit. Before, they used to come and collect glass samples.”
A Weston-super-Mare teenager has been spared jail after biting a taxi driver’s nose in a ‘life-changing’ unprovoked attack.
Kane Bennett, 19, appeared at Bristol Crown Court in August charged with assault occasioning actual bodily harm.
Father-of-four cabbie Gary Goodwin picked up Bennett and a friend from Weston’s Regent Street, at 3.20am on November 20 and took them to the Bournville estate.
Mr Goodwin, 49, told the Mercury: “After I picked them up, Kane threw a bottle out the window, hitting the roof of my car. I just kept on driving, I wanted to drop them off and go.”
But when Mr Goodwin pulled up, Bennett attacked him, punching him in the face and stomach multiple times.
Prosecutor Alistair Haggerty said: “Mr Goodwin was doing all he could to fend Bennett off. Bennett shouted: ‘I am going to bite your ******* nose off.’
“He twisted his head in a ripping motion, leaving Mr Goodwin terrified and in significant pain.”
Mr Goodwin said: “You don’t think someone would do that to another person who is trying to make a living. It shook all of my family. How do you act when your dad comes home with half his nose hanging off?
“I have been left scarred and with a crooked nose from that night. Every time I touch my nose or look in the mirror I get flashbacks. It has changed my life forever.”
Mr Goodwin was prescribed anti-depressants after the attack which prevented him from working for ten days and cost him more than £1,000.
Nadeem Aullybocus, mitigating, told the court Bennett was diagnosed with ADHD at the age of seven and medication had made his condition worse, with possible schizophrenia.
Mr Aullybocus said the teenager was ‘taking steps’ to improve his mental health and had stopped drinking.
The Judge handed him an 18-month community order. Bennett was also ordered to observe a four-month curfew, obey a 40-day rehabilitation order and pay £180 in compensation to Mr Goodwin and an £85 victim surcharge.
Three major south London private hire operators have formed a technology-based alliance in a bid to compete with Uber.
Parker Car Service, The Keen Group and Greyhound Cars have worked with computer supplier Cordic to set up a system that means any bookings that are not picked up are offered to the other two partners via their booking systems.
The three operators have a combined “virtual fleet” of 1,250 cars, covering most of south London and the City of London. “If a job goes unclaimed for more than three minutes, the system looks for all available cars from all three fleets, and fires the job to the nearest available car,” said Parker’s director Neil Martin. “It gives us a way to look collectively at how we can compete with Uber, while maintaining our independence,” Martin added.
He commented that the system only worked because the three companies had approached the alliance with an open and transparent mindset. And he said it was important that all companies maintained a similar standard of customer service and driver presentation. And while the three companies’ fares were not totally harmonised, they were close enough to allow one company to carry out work for the other at the other’s fares.
So far the system was working, and there was “not so much overlap as expected”, Martin added.
He said that he was interested in adding other operators - especially in north London - to the alliance. The only requirement would be that any new partners would have to be Cordic users.
Parker’s managing director, Joe Polley, said the alliance was something he’d wanted to see for a long time. “I’ve been pushing for relationships between cab companies for decades,” he said.
The wife of a £1m scratchcard winner said she thought her husband was “pulling my leg again” when he broke the news.
Taxi driver Alan Phillips, 58, was recently making a pit stop to buy the Sunday papers at the Co-operative Food store on Poplar Road, Wrexham, when he decided to cash in a scratchcard on which he had won £10.
But instead of pocketing his winnings, the grandfather of ten from Wrexham who was “feeling lucky” spent it on two £5 cards, which he asked the cashier to choose for him, and went back to his cab to see whether he had been successful.
To his amazement he realised he had scooped the top prize in the £1 Million Monopoly scratchcard from National Lottery GameStore - then went back in to ask the cashier to check he wasn’t seeing things.
He then called his wife Caroline, who wasn’t 100 per cent convinced at first he was telling the truth. She told the Daily Post: “It wouldn’t be the first time that Alan has joked about winning so I thought he was pulling my leg again.
“Only when he actually showed me the scratchcard did I start to believe him. I’m just overwhelmed – it’s not just Alan and I that will benefit from this win, but our kids and grandkids as well. It will go a long way to changing the lives of our entire family.”
The dad of six, who works for Prestige Taxis in the town, has vowed scooping cash won’t change him - even turning up for work the following day.
“I love my job and I have people that rely on me so I couldn’t let them down,” he said. “I have no intention of handing in my notice just yet so I might get a reputation as the only millionaire taxi driver in the country. It’s something you always dream of but it just goes to show that anyone can win.”
However Caroline, who is a cleaner, has other ideas. She said: “I’m currently working my notice period, something I didn’t think would be possible for a few more years. The win will allow me to cherish memories with my grandkids and watch them grow up.”
The couple decided to celebrate the win with a meal with their six children and ten grandchildren at their local restaurant.
Alan, who celebrated his 40th wedding anniversary this year, is also planning an anniversary treat for his wife. He said: “I want to buy her something extra special. A caravan is something she has always asked for but never been able to afford. Now I can treat her, just like she de-serves.”
Generous Alan also plans to help his children get on the property ladder - and even treat the woman who sold him his winning lottery ticket.
He added: “It’s down to her that I won so it is only right that I treat her as well. I’ll never forget her face when she said ‘you’re now a millionaire’.”