Source: This Is Local London
Date: 13 April 2004

Heroin hidden in false belly

fake stomach containing heroin
The prosthetic stomach worn by Ross

By Jo Bowring

A woman pretending to be pregnant who tried to smuggle heroin past customs in a fake belly has been jailed for almost four years.

Hayley Ross, 20, of the Broadway, Wimbledon, stashed 1.95kg of heroin inside a prosthetic stomach before passing through Dover Eastern Docks in September last year.

The class A drugs had an estimated street value of £70,000.

She and her companion, James Laurent, 23, from Walthamstow, claimed to have been to Belgium.

But suspicious customs officers searched their car, and found evidence of a trip to Holland.

This prompted them to look at Ross's pregnant belly more closely, and the heroin was discovered.

At Canterbury Crown Court on Wednesday last week, Ross was jailed for 47 months and Laurent for six years.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Van Der Bijk said it was a "cynical attempt" to get past customs, hoping that a pregnant woman would not be searched.

Senior operation manager Paul Newman said: "Seizures such as this have a very important impact on harm reduction, protects society by reducing crime and improve public safety as a result of stopping class A drugs being available on the streets of the UK."

After the court case, the heroin was incinerated at a secret location to ensure it could not make its way to the streets.

And using new powers under the Proceeds of Crime Act, the couple's car was also seized.

In the last year, 138 drug trafficking groups have been either disrupted or dismantled by customs officials working in partnership with the police.

There has been a big drive to reduce the availability of class A drugs and the criminality that goes with it.

As well as catching people bringing drugs into the UK, there is also an emphasis on stopping money intended for their purchase leaving the country.

UK agencies have been working closely with their counterparts worldwide to co-ordinate raids and make sure gangs are caught before drugs can be dispersed.

Hiding heroin in a prosthetic stomach is a rare method of drug smuggling, but is regarded by customs officials as another form of body packing one of the three main methods used by smugglers. The others are swallowing and stuffing, where the drugs are hidden inside the body.

In one case, a smuggler tried to bring drugs through the Channel Tunnel by concealing them beneath a wig.

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