Kirkcaldy smugglers filmed themselves packing drone with drugs

A gang who accidentally filmed themselves packaging drugs in Kirkcaldy to fly them by drone into a maximum security prison have been jailed for nearly four years.

Perth Prison. Picture: JP

Paul Reilly and Michael Martin had no idea the drone’s camera was recording footage of them as they prepared to fly nearly £3,000 worth of drugs into Perth Prison.

Footage played in court clearly showed the faces of the duo – along with a mystery third man – as they hid drugs inside Kinder Eggs to deliver to Martin’s brother in jail.

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The hapless gang also managed to film the door number of the house they were operating from and a car parked outside which belonged to them.

The footage was recovered by prison officers when the drone, with the drugs still attached to it, crashed and was found lying inside the prison yard.

The film was analysed and Reilly and Martin – who were both known criminals – were quickly identified from the footage by police officers.

At Perth Sheriff Court, Reilly (32) Oak Road, Cumbernauld, admitted being concerned in the supply of drugs on September 22, 2017. He admitted supplying cannabis, cannabis resin, buprenorphine and etizolam from 66 East March Street, Kirkcaldy.

Fiscal depute John Malpass told the court: “Paul Reilly was identified from CCTV footage on February 15. He has previous convictions for disorder, violence and drugs offences and has served time in prison.

“At 1 am on September 22, 2017, a prison officer was engaged in a routine patrol of the grounds and walked past A Hall towards the external wall next to the South Inch park.

“He heard a buzzing noise overhead but couldn’t see anything because of the darkness. He walked the perimeter wall and noticed a drone lying on the ground with a cellophane package lying next to it.”

He told the court that the crashed drone was lying below the window of the cell which Martin’s brother was being held in while serving a sentence in Perth Prison.

“Police seized the drone and package. There was a camera attached to the drone and that had a micro SD card in it,” Mr Malpass said.

“It was examined and showed one video file held on it. A copy was made and sent to the investigating officer. On December 6, 2017 police reviewed the footage.

“In the footage it is clear the drone has been switched on to try it out, but – unfortunately for those present – it was recording without the knowledge of the suspects and shows three males.

“They were later identified as Reilly, Martin and a third, as yet unidentified, male, within a bedroom of the house at 66 East March Street, Kirkcaldy.

“There was footage of Reilly wearing gloves, filling the recovered Kinder Egg with white pills and cutting up the cannabis resin into square blocks.

“The number on the front door can clearly be seen. This address was associated with Martin and search warrants were issued.

“Martin was identified first from the footage. It was circulated widely amongst police and that led to Reilly also being identified as the person in the footage.”

Mr Malpass said the cannabis had a potential prison value of £1,350 while the 128 pills could have been worth £1,430s behind bars.

“Given the fact the drugs were found next to the crashed drone, and the method involved, officers had no doubt this was an attempt to introduce drugs into the prison.”

Solicitor Gerry Considine, defending Reilly, said he had struggled with drug addiction for many years which had led to his criminal offending.

Mr Considine said: “He had gone to purchase drugs from his usual supplier, who told him he was going to Kirkcaldy to source drugs and that he could accompany him.

“He had never met his former co-accused prior to that. He accepts he assisted in packaging these drugs for onwards supply.

“He was unaware of their eventual destination. Once he had been involved in packaging the Kinder Egg he obtained the drugs he intended to and returned home.”

Reilly also admitted failing to turn up for a previous court hearing and Sheriff Lindsay Foulis jailed him for a total of 33 months yesterday.

Sheriff Foulis said: “The observation I would make is that as the packaging of the drugs involved a drone it was perhaps obvious to anyone with a knowledge of drugs practice that this supply operation was certainly not run of the mill.

“This is your third conviction for being concerned in the supply of drugs and account has to be taken of that.”

While Reilly was being hunted by police in May this year, Martin went on trial and was found guilty by a jury of supplying drugs into Perth Prison. He was jailed for a year.

Martin accidentally recorded over 18 minutes footage of the gang preparing the drone with a package which was intended for his brother Chris.

In that case, fiscal depute Michael Sweeney said: “If there was an award for the movie with the most inept director, then it would have been won by the accused.”

The jury was told that a second drone flight led to a package being hooked with a makeshift fishing rod into Chris Martin’s cell on the prison’s third floor.

Mr Sweeney said: “The message seems to be that if at first you don’t succeed, then fly, fly again.”

Martin (35) Cedar Avenue, Kirkcaldy, was found guilty of being concerned in the supply of drugs at Perth Prison on September 22 last year.

He was cleared of a number of other charges including breaching civil aviation laws by flying a drone into a prison on both September 22 and 25.

PC Nicholas Schembri (38) told the trial the drone video showed a tour of the inside of Martin’s girlfriend’s property.

He noted that the faces of all three men were visible on screen and that Martin could be recognised from a tattoo he has on his neck.

A wooden decoration – spelling out his girlfriend’s name Teri – was also seen in the video and a car could be seen when the drone was eventually taken outside.

PC Schembri said: “It starts with the accused lifting the drone and looking at the drone itself and then turning it round in the same room, which looks like a living room.

“At some point it is taken outside and back into a bedroom. During the footage you can see another two people preparing what looks like drugs.

“I don’t think they were aware the drone was actually filming at that time. I’m assuming he was looking at the drone to check if it was on, if it was functioning.

“He was maybe making sure it was properly set-up. From the footage I viewed you could see clearly a tattoo on his neck.”

The officer told the jury that one of the other men was seen packing a Kinder egg with items and was wearing socks over his hands as he sealed the package.

“Obviously they don’t want their fingerprints or DNA to be left on the objects they’re handling. He was handling a quantity of white pills from what I could see.”

Giving evidence, Martin accepted it was him who was on the video and he claimed he had been fixing the drone for the other two men.

He said they were strangers who turned up at his door with the drone and drugs and claimed to be friends of his brother Chris.

Three days after the original drone crashed to the ground with drugs and five phones still attached to it, a second identical device was flown into the prison.

A mystery package was delivered to inmates inside their third floor cell by the drone. They were seen using a pole and hook to grab the package from the drone.

Prison staff went to the cell and found the two prisoners – Chris Martin and Stuart Murdoch – “wide awake” and watching TV shortly before 4am. A search of the cell found a hollow broom handle and coathanger hooks. Two illicit mobile phones were found hidden in a tub of protein powder.

Sheriff William Wood described the jury’s verdict as “nuanced” and warned Martin: “Whatever misadventures there were you would do well to steer clear of further such misadventures in future.”

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