Carer ‘didn’t know drugs were in her outhouse and cannabis farm was in her loft’, court told

Teesside Crown Court
Teesside Crown Court

A carer denied knowledge of drugs and drug dealing paraphernalia found at her property.

Margaret Murphy is on trial with seven other men accused of dealing drugs from a network of ‘safe houses’ in Sunderland, Houghton, and South Shields.

Prosecutors claim the drugs were stored in the houses, and prepared for street sale by the addition of household chemicals in a process known as ‘bashing out’.

When police raided Murphy’s house in Fletcher Crescent, Houghton, officers found a block of cocaine in an outhouse and a cannabis farm in the loft.

Other items seized included scales, polythene bags, and a bag sealer, which prosecutors claim was to be used to produce packs of drugs for street sale.

“In total 662g of cocaine was recovered from the Fletcher Crescent address,” prosecutor Peter Makepeace QC told a jury at Teesside Crown Court.

“There was 18.27kg of boric acid and 410g of caffeine.

“In the loft there was a relatively small but sophisticated cannabis farm containing 13 plants.”

Murphy told the jury she was at work when the police raid took place, and she had not previously seen the items recovered.

“I didn’t go into the outhouse and I’ve never been up into the loft,” she said.

“If I had known there was any drug dealing going on in the house, I wouldn’t have allowed it.

“I am strongly anti-drugs.”

Under questioning from her barrister, Caroline Goodwin QC, Murphy said she had worked all her life, apart from short breaks when she had children.

“I finished school at 15 on the Friday and started work in the clothing factory on Monday,” said Murphy.

“Later on I worked as a cook in care homes, at the Little Sisters of the Poor in Sunderland, and at the YMCA in Herrington before it closed.

“I currently work as a support worker for a disabled lady, which sometimes involves staying overnight at her house.”

Murphy said she does not drive and routinely gets up at 6.15am to help her disabled husband get up before taking the first bus to work at 7.15am.

“I am not frightened of hard work,” Murphy told the jury. “I’ve never claimed benefits, always getting another job.

“I’ve been in my house for 30 years, but I will never own it because I had to go onto interest-only payments after my husband had a stroke.

“The last time I had a holiday was 17 years ago.”

The jury heard Murphy attended voluntarily to be interviewed by police, but refused to answer any questions.

“I’ve never been in any trouble with the police before,” she said.

“It was frightening going into the police station.

“My solicitor advised me to make no comment, so I went with his advice.”

Murphy, 61, of Fletcher Crescent, Houghton, denies conspiracy to supply class A drugs between March, 2014, and June, 2015.

The following deny the same charge: Ian Ramshaw, 32, of Cambridge Road, Silksworth, Sunderland, Christian Winter, 50, of Osborne Avenue, South Shields, Andrew Blake, 40, of Regent Court, South Hetton, David Murphy, 38, of Avonmouth Road, Farringdon, Sunderland, and Michael Murphy, 63, of Fletcher Crescent, Houghton.

The Murphys deny conspiracy to supply class B drugs.

Thomas Blake, 77, of Jubilee Square, South Hetton, denies converting criminal property.

Proceeding.