A DRUG courier’s claims he knew nothing about the presence of a significant quantity of illicit substances in his van were contradicted by the presence of his DNA on the packages.

Police pulled over a Ford Transit van driven by Anthony MacDonald on the A66 near Darlington, at 8.10pm on Friday November 16.

Durham Crown Court was told in a search of the van at Darlington Police Station, packages were found concealed in a hat behind the driver’s seat.

On examination they were found to contain 240g of heroin and 2.64g of high purity cocaine, plus almost 1kg of cutting agent to ‘bulk up’ ensuing drug deals.

Paul Newcombe, prosecuting, said Macdonald’s DNA was found on inner parts of the bags containing the drugs, which suggested at some point he had wrapped and unwrapped them.

He denied knowledge of the bags or even having handled them, blaming a “mysterious third party” for their presence.

Macdonald claimed to have been returning from Bradford where he went to view a cement mixer earlier that day.

The 49-year-old driver and fitter, of Hebron Road, Stokesley, denied possession of a class A drug with intent to supply, relating to the heroin, and mere possession of the cocaine at a plea hearing in November.

But on the day of trial, he changed his pleas to guilty, to both counts.

Paul Green, for Macdonald, said his plea change was made on the basis that he was acting as a courier, adding that his client has committed no previous drug-related offences.

Mr Newcombe said the Crown accepted his role was as a courier and believed the presence of his fingerprints on the drug packages may be explained by the fact he was “dipping into” the stash in part-payment.

But, Mr Newcombe said analysis of his phone revealed no evidence that he was involved in dealing.

Mr Green said he became involved in the trip to help relieve a relative’s debt to a loan shark.

Imposing a four-year prison sentence, Judge Jonathan Carroll said Macdonald would only gain minimal credit due to his day-of-trial admission.

“He knew his DNA was on it and had every opportunity to plead up front.

“But, it’s to his advantage that he has no previous convictions of a similar nature.”

Ordering forfeiture and destruction of the drugs, the judge added that couriers play an important role in the distribution of illicit substances on behalf of those doing the actual dealing.