19 December 2017
A man who went on the run after he attempted to smuggle cocaine to the UK in a light aircraft has been sent to prison.
Jason Waterman (left) from Watford in Hertfordshire was wanted in connection with the importation attempt which led to the recovery of around seven kilos of the drug, worth around £1.2m, at Bagby airfield near Thirsk in North Yorkshire in October 2015.
The 33-year-old, whose nicknames include Jugs and Jumbo, had been on board an aircraft that had just flown into the airfield. As Border Force officers arrived on the scene to carry out checks on the plane he ran off, leaving a suitcase containing the drugs in a nearby hedgerow (below).
National Crime Agency investigators began to track him down, and following a series of media appeals by the NCA in the Evening Standard, local papers in London and on the BBC’s Crimewatch Roadshow he finally handed himself in to police in Gibraltar, dripping wet and carry a bag of wet clothes in June 2017. He later told officers he had been in Spain and swum rather than come across the land border.
Waterman was extradited back to the UK shortly afterwards to face drug importation charges, and on what would have been the first day of his trial at Bradford Crown Court on Monday 18 December he pleaded guilty. A judge sentenced him to seven years and two months in prison.
NCA Branch Commander David Norris said:
“Waterman fled the UK for more than a year and a half in an attempt to avoid this moment, so it gives us great satisfaction to see him behind bars.
“It demonstrates that the NCA does not give up the hunt, and to everyone else feeling the stress of being on the run I would say we are patient people, we keep the pressure on, and we never stop looking for you.
“This investigation drew on the combined skills of the NCA, North Yorkshire Police, Border Force and overseas partners. Working together we are determined to do all we can to disrupt and prosecute those involved in trafficking and organised crime.”
Following a trial in March 2017 the aircraft pilot who had flown Waterman to the UK from the Netherlands was found not guilty of importation offences.
Dan Scully, Border Force Deputy Director, Intelligence Operations, said:
“Border Force plays a pivotal role in protecting the UK from the harm that dangerous drugs like these can bring to our communities.
“Working with our law enforcement partners at home and abroad, this case shows that there will be no hiding place for those who attempt to smuggle Class A drugs on to our streets.”
The NCA is a partner in Project Pegasus, a multi-agency campaign encouraging people living and working close to small airfields to report unusual activity associated with general aviation.
Anyone with information about unusual activity can report it to their local police force on 101 or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.