Audio recordings captured alleged drug dealers - a father and son - bemoan that an increased PSNI presence for a visit by The Queen to Coleraine meant it would not be a “good day to operate,” it was claimed in court on Monday.
A police officer was speaking at Coleraine Magistrates Court where Peter Neill (48), of Hazelbank Road and Peter George Antony Neill (30), of Pates Lane - both in the town - appeared via video link from Maghaberry Jail where they are on remand for drugs offences.
A defence solicitor said the men deny the offences and that Neill Jnr had been the subject of considerable police attention and there was even a police presence at his wedding day.
Peter Neill senior faces eleven charges including three of conspiring to supply cocaine. He is also facing three charges of being concerned in the supply of the Class A drug.
He is further charged with being concerned in the supply of cannabis and conspiring with others to supply the Class B drug. Neill Snr was also charged with possessing and transferring criminal property.
Neill Snr is further charged with having ‘a firearm other than a handgun, namely a magazine suitable for an assault rifle, without holding, a firearm certificate’.
Neill Jnr is charged with eight offences including two counts of conspiracy to supply cocaine and two of being concerned in the supply of cocaine. He is also charged with conspiring to supply cannabis; being concerned in the supply of cannabis as well as possessing and transferring criminal property.
Neill Snr did not apply for bail but during a successful bail application by Neill Jnr, a police officer outlined the alleged background to the case.
He said on November 20 last year as part of a pro-active operation a silver Mercedes car was stopped in the Dundrod area and one kilo of cocaine with a street value of £405,000 was recovered.
The officer said the driver, who is now regarded by police as ‘an assisting offender’, told them he was contacted the previous day by Neill Snr who said to meet to him at Coleraine ‘Trim Trail’ where he was met by the two Neills who provided him with details for “drugs runs”.
The court heard drugs were picked up to be taken to the Heights area of Coleraine and then to “the big man in Strathfoyle”.
The officer said the man claimed to have been a “drugs courier” on 40 occasions between 2012 and 2015 for the Neills when he collected drugs and cash including runs to Claudy and Derry.
The officer said on another occasion a man got off a train from Dublin in Belfast and was found with £190,000 worth of cocaine.
The police man said police seized cars belonging to the Neills in September this year including Neill Snr’s Audi A5 and swabs showed traces of cocaine and cutting agents.
He alleged that on a device taken from Neill Jnr there was a photo of the ‘assisting offender’ and a pic of Windyhill Road near Coleraine and it was the police’s belief that could be the area of a “drugs hide”.
The court heard dozens of phone sim cards were also seized.
The officer said there were a “large number” of audio recordings which police believe included the Neills in discussion about drug supply and at one stage mention was made of it “not being a good day to operate” because of increased levels of police in the area for a visit by The Queen.
The officer said Neill Snr denied the claims made by the assisting offender and Neill Jnr made no comment.
The police man said he believed the two Neills are “principle members of this organised crime gang operating in the north west area”.
Defence solicitor Garrett Greene said both men denied the offences. He questioned the reference to the cocaine being worth £405,000 saying it was first referred to as being £60,000 but the officer said that was because if was 81 per cent pure and when cut down it would only be 12 per cent on the street, hence the higher street value.
Mr Greene said it was a surveillance operation which relied largely on the evidence of the assisting offender.
Releasing Neill Jnr on bail of £5,000, District Judge Liam McNally also ordered an independent £5,000 surety; night time curfew; electronic tag; a driving ban; no mobile phone and no contact with any co-accused including his father.