TWO mums were caught with Aldi bags stuffed full of cocaine worth £123,000 as they were getting ready to go out for a lunch date.
Courtney Larkin, 24, had been packaging 1kg of the drug at home for her new trafficking racket when her friend Ellie Mortin, 21, dropped by and began helping.
An hour later police burst into Larkin's home in Stalybridge, Greater Manchester and caught both women sat near a mirror where they had been getting dolled up with an Aldi bag for life full of crack cocaine and paraphernalia, as well as 37 bags they had already prepared.
Inquiries revealed mum-of-two Larkin had set up her own drugs hot line into the town and had acquired 1kg of cocaine to sell wholesale to local street dealers.
At Minshull Street Crown Court, Manchester, Larkin was jailed for four years and 11 months after she admitted possessing cocaine with intent to supply.
Mum-of-one Mortin, also from Stalybridge, admitted similar charges but walked free with two years jail suspended for 20 months after she claimed she had not ''intended to be complicit'' in the racket.
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The cops bust occurred on May 6 this year after the two women had made plans with another girlfriend to go out for lunch together in the neighbouring town of Mossley.
Charlotte Crangle, prosecuting said: “Mortin attended Larkin’s address at around 11am to get a lift with her but when she arrived, Larkin was bagging up white powder into snapbacks.
''Mortin asked her if they could leave but Larkin insisted that she needed to bag everything up before she could leave. She was shocked at what she saw but began to help her friend bag up the drugs. She was only at the property for a short while before the police raided the address at 12.05.
“The police found both defendants in the living room sitting on the floor. Mortin sat next to a mirror. On that mirror was a set of scales and some white powder.
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"In front of both of them was a makeshift table with 37 bags of white powder on it that had already been prepared.
”Officers also found a big Aldi bag kept out of sight in the corner of the room. Stored Inside this bag was just over a kilogram of crack cocaine, razor blades and additional snap bags.
"In total, there was 1.185kgs of crack cocaine at the property, which would amount to £123,187 if wrapped into bags and sold at street value. Mortin was unaware of the bag in the corner of the room.
“Both were arrested and taken to Ashton police station where they gave no comment in interview. Both also had their mobile phones seized but refused to give the pin numbers over to police.
SET UP DRUGS HOT LINE
"Officers were later able to ‘crack’ into the phones and found from the 8th of April until the 6th of May Larkin had been running a drugs line.”
“This involved her supplying and selling drugs, using a vehicle to deliver drugs and organising for other people to sell drugs.”
Both women had no previous convictions.
In mitigation, Clare Brocklebank representing Larkin said: “Larkin has lost two children to the care system and was just managing to keep her head above water. She has issues with mental health and turned to cocaine as a result. It took a turn and ‘her situation spiralled quite significantly.
”She has just re-connected with her nine-year-old son and is trying to clean up her act. In anticipation of her sentencing, she moved out of her Stalybridge address and in with her father, who has been very supportive.
“She has had a difficult time. Without going too much into it, her mother struggled with similar issues. She has been in several abusive relationships and had children when she was clearly not ready to.
“She has shown remorse and, given her relatively young age, this incident will no doubt be a big turning point in her life.”
For Morton, Betsy Hindle said her client had initially asked a relative for a lift the restaurant only for him to reply that he was painting and needed to finish the task. She then arrived at Larkin's home and 'naively' got involved in helping her friend bag up the drugs.
Miss Hindle added: “She works as a part-time cleaner at the nearby Hollywood Bowl, working a few hours a week. The rest of her time is spent caring for her 2-year-old daughter.
''She splits caring responsibilities with the father of her child and her parents. Her mum is an NHS nurse and her father is a firefighter. She has told me that one of her parents will have to give up their job to look after the child if she goes into custody. Her daughter is at a crucial stage in her development and separation from her mother now would no doubt impact her life.
”She is easily influenced and struggles to make her own decisions. She was shocked at the time and didn’t realise what she was doing in that moment. She told me she has never even taken a drug. She didn’t know that the next hour would change her life
Sentencing, Mark Savill told both woman: ''Let’s be clear, drugs are pernicious, and you know as well as I do these drugs in particular cause misery.”
Mortin must also complete 150 hours of unpaid work, and 40 rehabilitation days and must have an electronic curfew tag fitted, which will inhibit her from leaving home between 8pm and 7am.
After the case Det Con Rick McIvor, of Greater Manchester Police said: “To bust open the door to find Larkin sat surrounded in crack cocaine and drug paraphernalia, and bagging it up to be sold to drug users was an evidential paradise.
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“Despite her remaining silent throughout the interview, she ultimately had no choice but to admit to her involvement in the supply of drugs and face the consequences.
"I want to take this opportunity to encourage the local community to keep reporting drug related activity to police that will go towards seeing more results like this.”
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