Drug dealer hid in child's playhouse to evade arrest in Harpenden

Drug dealer Robert Stewart tried to evade law enforcement officers by hiding in a child's playhouse in Harpenden

Drug dealer Robert Stewart tried to evade law enforcement officers by hiding in a child's playhouse in Harpenden - Credit: National Crime Agency (NCA)

A 32-year-old man who hid in a child's playhouse in Harpenden to evade arrest has been jailed.

Robert Stewart was found with a van containing holdalls packed with 57 kilograms of cocaine when officers from the National Crime Agency tried to catch him in Luton Road, Harpenden on April 23.

Stewart, of Broadwater Gardens in Orpington, south-east London, pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply class A drugs at Luton Crown Court on May 23.

The same court sentenced him to seven and a half years in prison on Friday, July 29.

A holdall containing some of the drugs which National Crime Agency officers recovered in Harpenden

A holdall containing some of the drugs which National Crime Agency officers recovered in Harpenden - Credit: National Crime Agency (NCA)

Adam Berry, of the National Crime Agency, said the cocaine in Stewart's van had an estimated value of £4.5 million.

He said: "I’ve no doubt that had he not been stopped those drugs would have ended on the streets of south east England, in the hands of gangs who bring violence and exploitation to our communities."

A holdall which National Crime Agency officers recovered in Harpenden

A holdall which National Crime Agency officers recovered in Harpenden - Credit: National Crime Agency (NCA)

A purpose-built hide in the van which Robert Stewart, 32, of Broadwater Gardens in Orpington, used to transport drugs

A purpose-built hide in the van which Robert Stewart, 32, of Broadwater Gardens in Orpington, used to transport drugs - Credit: National Crime Agency (NCA)

Adam Berry added that Stewart was apprehended with help from the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire policing teams.

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He said: "We are grateful to Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police for their support in this operation, and we remain determined to do all we can to target and disrupt the organised networks involved in the distribution of class A drugs."

The National Crime Agency began tracking Stewart in a car park at Luton Airport on the Bedfordshire and Hertfordshire border.

He was followed into Luton Road, Harpenden, where officers tried to stop him.

To evade arrest, Stewart made off on foot and jumped over a fence at the rear of a pub car park in the town. He threw his van keys into a bush.

Stewart was found hiding in a child's playhouse in a nearby garden a short time later.

The National Crime Agency called in support from Hertfordshire and Bedfordshire police forces as well as a police helicopter team to help find him.

In addition to drugs worth more than £4 million, officers found two empty, purpose-built and hydraulically operated hides in the van.

Sergeant Julian Byrne, from Bedfordshire Police’s airport team, said: "We’re committed to keeping our county safe from the scourge of drugs and will work quickly to apprehend those thought to be involved."