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New life for drug mule lab

A DOG used in an attempt to smuggle Colombian cocaine into Britain has been given a new life in the canine equivalent of witness protection.

Only four people worldwide know the whereabouts and identity assigned to Rex, one of two Labradors to have plastic canisters containing £126,000 of cocaine implanted in their bodies.

As reported previously in OUR DOGS, Rex, a yellow Labrador, and Frispa, a black Labrador, were carried on a plane from Colombia. During a stopover at Schiphol airport in Amsterdam, whilst awaiting a connecting flight to Stansted, a vet noticed that both were in poor condition. He saw they had four-week-old surgical scars on their bellies and detected hard objects around Rex's stomach. X-rays showed packets inside both the animals' body cavity beside their internal organs. Between them, the dogs had a total of 21 packets of cocaine, weighing 2.5 lbs implanted in their bodies.

John Cooper, QC, prosecuting, said at Norwich Crown Court that several canisters had fused to the connective tissue inside Frispa, meaning that they could not be removed without killing her.

However, the condition had made the dog very weak and Customs officials were told that, if the objects were left in place, she would not survive and was put to sleep.

Several members of the gang were detained at Stansted airport, Essex, when 1.13 kilograms of cocaine worth £126,000 was recovered.

Sophia McPherson, 24, a student at St Martin's College in London, was arrested when she arrived at the airport to pick up the dogs from the Martinair flight on Oct 3rd last year and charged with conspiracy to import Class A drugs.

Three others, Kaye Chapman, 20, a single mother and Gregory Graham, 27, both from Harrow, north-west London, and Glenroy Kentish, 28, of Hitchin, Herts, were arrested in a nearby lay-by shortly afterwards.

At Norwich Crown Court last week Chapman and Gregory Graham were convicted of conspiring to import the Class A drug.

McPherson, and Kentish were cleared of similar charges.

All four had pleaded not guilty to attempting to smuggle class A drugs into the UK between September 26th and October 3rd 2003.

Chapman and Graham will be sentenced on Sept 3. Metropolitan Police detectives had wanted to bring Rex to England for the trial. But the Dutch authorities refused to allow the dog, which had 11 drug canisters in its body, to leave the country on safety grounds.

The Colombian authorities are still searching for the drug exporters and the veterinary surgeon who implanted the 21 canisters in the dogs