Cocaine said to be worth up to £50 million has washed up on two Norfolk beaches, in one of the largest hauls ever found on the British coastline. 360kg (794 lbs) of the Class A substance was discovered on Hopton beach, near Great Yarmouth, and a beach near Caister, according to the National Crime Agency. It is “extremely unlikely” that the haul was intended for the Norfolk area, but the seizure of the drugs “represent[s] a major blow to the organised criminals involved,” Matthew Rivers, from the NCA’s border investigation team, told the BBC.
He added: “we are now working with Border Force, the Coastguard Agency and Norfolk Police to try and establish how the bags ended up where they did.” Officers reportedly continued to search the coastline between the villages of Hopton and Hemsby over the weekend, after a further few packages were located on the beach at Hemsby on Friday.
The Hemsby volunteer lifeboat crew were helping police with a thorough search of the area after the packages were discovered. Crew member Gerard Roadley-Battin described the find, stating that they: “were on the beach and looked like the bricks you see on television, five packages wrapped up in brown masking tape.” The second coxswain said each package was “about 8ins by 6ins, and 3ins deep.” He added that the “police drug enforcement agency took them away.”
The initial discovery was made on Thursday 9th February by Valerie McGee, 70, out walking her Irish setter Rudey. The retired psychotherapist found the first nine bags of the drugs on Hopton beach. A further three bags were later discovered near Caister, after officers were called to the scene. The pensioner told the Sun newspaper: “Rudey went up to have a sniff and did a little wee on the bags, so he must have thought they were interesting.” She added: “they must have broken loose in the waves and been washed up on the beach.”
Images of the haul show a large pile of a dozen brightly coloured sports holdalls, containing the packages of drugs, tied to a number of plastic floats. A spokesman for Norfolk police said the find was likely to be the largest in the UK in recent years.
Superintendent Dave Buckley, from Norfolk Constabulary, said: “we are assisting the National Crime Agency with their searches and whilst we believe we have recovered all the packages, should any member of the public find one they are urged to contact Norfolk Constabulary immediately on 101.” Extra police are patrolling the stretch of coastline following the three discoveries.
Officers visited the stretch of beach in the town between Britannia Pier and Wellington Pier, at around 8am on Saturday 11th of February, after reports of “a black bag bobbing around in the sea.” The object floated away upon the arrival of Norfolk Police and Gorleston Coastguard. The public are reported to be on “high alert” following the incidents.
Responding to the find, Norfolk’s Police and Crime Commissioner, Lorne Green, has called for the creation of a metaphorical “ring of steel” to protect the county from drug-dealing. He suggested a tougher approach would “keep out the terrible threats to our safety,” adding that “we have to be mindful of all entry points into the county. ”
The largest previous haul of drugs discovered on a stretch of UK coastline was in 2009, when a 20kg haul of cocaine, worth £6 million at the time, was found washed ashore at Frenchman’s Bay, in Rye, on the Sussex coast. The amount found in Norfolk last week is worth over eight times as much.