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Couple get over 11 years for smuggling £1.2 million cocaine in handbags through Gatwick

A couple who attempted to smuggle almost 12 kilos of cocaine hidden in the linings of handbags have been jailed for a total of 11 years and five months following a National Crime Agency investigation.

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Italian national Davide Fasano, 31, from East Dulwich and his 25 year-old Spanish girlfriend Tania Michelle Cedeno-Piguave, arrived into the UK on a flight from the Caribbean island of Aruba with £1.2 million worth of the Class A drug.

They were sentenced at the Old Bailey today (Friday, 30 November). Both pleaded guilty to the importation of a controlled drug at a hearing on Monday, 26 November.3

Davide Fasano

Fasano was sentenced to six years and nine months imprisonment. Cedeno-Piguave was sentenced to four years and eight months.

The pair were stopped at Gatwick Airport by Border Force officers on 6 July, 2018, after they arrived from Aruba, where they had been on a week-long holiday.

Tania Michelle Cedeno-Piguave

A sniffer dog indicated there was something inside Fasano’s suitcase. A search by officers revealed only a small amount of clothing but five new handbags inside. The cocaine was hidden inside a false bottom of the suitcase and the linings of the handbags.

They were then both arrested and cautioned by Border Force officers on suspicion of being involved in the importation of a controlled drug.

When subsequently questioned by NCA investigators, both denied any knowledge of the drugs hidden in the luggage.

Fasano claimed he had found the suitcase at a bus stop outside the hotel in Aruba. He said he took it for his girlfriend Cedeno-Piguave as hers had ‘broken’.

When Fasano was asked by investigators why the suitcase was at a bus stop, he couldn’t give an explanation. He then said: “I’m not stupid, I wouldn’t travel 10,000 km carrying cocaine”.

Both were charged and remanded in custody.

Further enquiries by NCA officers revealed thousands of Whatsapp messages written in English, Spanish and Italian. Amongst the messages investigators found a conversation relating to Fasano paying Cedeno-Piguave £3,000 to accompany him to Aruba, and Cedeno-Piguave stating that it “would be dangerous”.

Steve McIntyre, NCA Branch Commander, Heathrow and Gatwick, said:

“The importation of Class A drugs such as cocaine, fuel further crime and violence which cause misery and exploitation of others.

“Fasano and Cedeno-Piguave were reckless in attempting to smuggle drugs into the UK.

“Working with our Border Force colleagues we will target anyone who tries to undermine the security of the UK border by smuggling illegal drugs and protect the public from the inevitable harm this causes.”

Tim Kingsberry, Director of Border Force South, said:

“This is another excellent example of Border Force officers preventing a substantial quantity of drugs, with an estimated street level value of around £1.2 million from ending up on the streets of the UK, where they cause significant harm to both individuals and communities.

“Working with our colleagues at the National Crime Agency (NCA) we are determined to do all we can to stop drug traffickers and ensure that those who involve themselves in this activity face the full consequences of their crimes.”

Crime

Man who strangled and beat 17-year-old Crawley girl convicted

An engineer from Partridge Green has been convicted of violent and sexual attacks on two women after a Sussex Police investigation.

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Neil Scott-O’Connor, 23, a household appliance engineer, was convicted at Hove Crown Court on Thursday (28 November) after a 14-day trial, of;

– six offences against a 29-year old woman at an address in Brighton on dates between September 2018 and January 2019; one offence of threats to kill, one of attempted strangulation with intent to commit a sexual offence, two offences of causing actual bodily harm, and one of harassment with intent to cause fear;
– three offences against a 17-year-old girl at his address in Partridge Green in December 2018; one offence of attempted strangulation with intent to commit a sexual offence and two of causing actual bodily harm.

He was found not guilty of one offence of causing actual bodily harm to the 29-year old woman.

He had pleaded not guilty to all charges.

The prosecution, authorised by the Crown Prosecution Service, followed an investigation by detectives from both the West Sussex Investigations team and the Brighton Safeguarding Investigation Unit (SIU).

Scott-O’Connor had his own business an emergency appliance repair man, driving around Sussex fixing appliances in houses or in businesses.
Police first became aware of Scott-O’Connor’s offending when the 17-year-old woman from Crawley came forward. She had extensive bruising on her body and reported that she had been strangled almost to the point of unconsciousness by someone she had met on Facebook, during their first date. This man was Scott-O’Connor. He was arrested in December 2018 and was released on bail whilst an investigation began.

The scope of his sexualised offending soon became apparent when the 29-year-old woman from Brighton then came forward reporting similar attacks and non-consensual strangulation during their short relationship.

She too had photographs of extensive bruising and injuries inflicted by him. When the relationship ended Scott-O’Connor made multiple threats to the victim which included him threatening to burn her house down, to cut the brake lines on her car, and shoot her and her two-year-old son. Fearing he was capable of carrying out these threats she immediately reported him to police. He was further arrested and interviewed during which he continued to deny any wrong doing.

Officers conducted a thorough examination of his mobile phone and revealed a wealth of information including an Amazon shopping list of weapons and restraints, hundreds of screenshots of female Facebook profiles and the purchase of tracking devices. His Internet search history raised concern further, as did his choice of horror movies depicting rape and torture.

Detective Sergeant Andy Ricks said;

“I am extremely pleased with this result. My team,including Investigator Gary Campbell, and Detective Constable Tracey Dixon from the Brighton SIU, worked tirelessly to build a solid evidential case over the past year. Neil Scott-O’Connor posed a significant risk, luring his victims into relationships through charm and flattery, in one case via social media, then turning to violence and fear to act out his dark sexual fantasies.

“His obsession with strangulation was a common feature in the investigation and it’s only by good fortune that one of his victims was not killed. As Counsel for the prosecution, Richard Hearndon said of Scott-O’Connor; “…during strangulation he literally had their life in his hands”.

“We would also like to thank the victims for having the courage to come forward and support us in putting this dangerous offender behind bars.”

Scott-O’Connor was remanded in custody for pre-sentence reports, prior to sentencing on 17 January 2020.

For information about support and advice available to victims see the Sussex Police website.

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