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Last Updated: Friday, 16 January, 2004, 16:59 GMT
Jail for drugs grandmother
Eileen Cresswell
Eileen Cresswell sent drug mules to Jamaica, the court heard.

A grandmother has been found guilty of masterminding an international drug-smuggling gang.

Eileen Cresswell, 63, of Gloucester, was sentenced to eight years in prison at Bristol Crown Court on Friday.

She was found guilty by a majority verdict of conspiracy to import a Class A drug.

Cresswell, who had denied the charge against her, led a group conspiring to bring cocaine to the UK from Jamaica.

She organised a gang of couriers to import the drug between 1 April 1997 and 21 March 1998.

The jury of seven women and five men took two and a half hours to find the former post office worker guilty.

Whistle blown

Cresswell, who is known as "Nan" to her friends, recruited couriers to travel to the West Indies and bring back drugs in cavities in their shoes.

She helped book and pay for their flights and drove them to and from Gatwick Airport in her own Ford Sierra.

Others involved have been found guilty or pleaded guilty to their involvement in the plot.

The Gloucester-based smuggling ring came to the police's attention when a woman recruited as a companion to one of the "mules" blew the whistle.

Cresswell disappeared in September 1998 while on bail in connection with the plot and a warrant was issued for her arrest.

In March 2002 she gave herself up to police in Gloucester.

'Dirty business'

Defending barrister Ian Ross asked Judge Michael Roach as an "act of mercy" to take into account Cresswell's ill health and age when deciding the length of sentence.

The mother-of-two has suffered two severe strokes and a heart attack in the last three years.

A medical report compiled by her GP also revealed she was diagnosed with leukaemia but had declined medical treatment.

Passing sentence, the judge said: "In my judgment you took a managerial role and played a larger part than any of the couriers who have either been convicted or pleaded guilty."

The import of drugs, he said, was a "dirty business bringing untold misery and degradation" on those who take them.

He had no choice but to give a tough custodial sentence but he would make it eight years instead of 10 because of Cresswell's ill health.

A police spokesman said: "The result shows that the Gloucestershire Constabulary will continue its fight against drugs no matter how long it takes to bring such people to court."

Grandmother denies drug role
14 Jan 04  |  Gloucestershire
Grandmother 'was drugs mastermind'
07 Jan 04  |  Gloucestershire

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