A university graduate who worked for the NHS was jailed for more than four years yesterday after he admitted being part of a drug ring flooding Scotland with heroin.
Paul Neal, of Liverpool, was jailed for 52 months after a court was told he had suffered a “significant fall from grace” that ended with him being caught with nearly £30,000 of the drug.
Co-accused Sean Thomas, also of Liverpool, was jailed for four years as Perth Sheriff Court heard the duo were also caught with more than £30,000 they had made from dealing the class-A drug.
The duo were caught after leaving a trail of muddy footprints that led to a Tupperware box they stuffed with drugs and money and left in Friarton Woods, Perth.
Neal had worked as an operating department practitioner and his solicitor, David Holmes, said: “This is a serious matter. It is a significant fall from grace.
“He completed a university course and worked for the public good and things seemed to have gone downhill for him. He lost his job and became involved in taking drugs and got into debt.
“He realises he must be punished.”
Sheriff Lindsay Foulis noted the pair had been involved in a large scale operation worth £60,000 in just nine days.
He said: “One cannot ignore the fact you both hail from Merseyside and recent reports from Police Scotland indicate significant quantities of the drugs coming into Scotland hail from that area.
“The offence to which you both pled guilty is a serious one. It is quite clear this was an operation which some thought had gone into. The drugs were concealed in another place.”
Thomas, 27, and Neal, 35, admitted supplying heroin in Friarton Woods, Perth, between August 14 and 25 last year. They were caught after police set up a covert surveillance operation.
Neal was caught in the woodland and said he was looking for his dog, but a selfie on his phone confirmed his friendship with fellow dealer Thomas.
Depute fiscal John Malpass said officers saw Neal go in and out of a wooded area close to Perth Prison several times.
“Police searched the route taken by him and found distinct footprints and wet mud where it appeared some activity had taken place.
“A tub containing three large wraps and cash was discovered by the officers,” Mr Malpass told the court.
He said Thomas was later seen entering the same wooded area and when officers confronted him he ran off and dumped a bag and its contents.
Detectives found a box containing cash and drugs hidden under branches and they followed up by raiding the flat Neal was staying in central Perth.
A Tupperware box containing £15,000 was found with Neal’s fingerprints on it. The prosecutor said a total of £30,480 cash was recovered, and heroin with a street value of £27,100.
Police welcome sentencing of pair
Detective Constable Iain Bennett of the Police Scotland’s organised crime and counter terrorism unit said: “The sentencing of Paul Neal and Sean Thomas sends a clear message that those involved in serious and organised crime can expect to carry out significant custodial sentences.
“Neal and Thomas are an example of ‘county lines’ drug trafficking, providing a direct route on this occasion from Merseyside to Tayside. Such tactics will not be tolerated and the severity of the sentencing reflects this.
“Information from members of the public is vital in our efforts to tackling drugs crime, and as a result of their support, we have managed to recover a significant quantity of heroin and cash.
“I would like to thank the public for their support and encourage others who have concerns to contact Police Scotland on 101 or alternatively Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111 where information can be passed anonymously.”