A mother and daughter from Dungannon have been remanded in custody on charges relating to an ‘Aladdin’s Cave’ large-scale drugs operation, potentially fronted by a furniture business.
Imelda Clarke (62) of Dunavon Park and Audrey Clarke (42) of Dunavon Heights are charged with multiple counts of possessing MDMA (Ecstasy), cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply, as well as possessing criminal property.
A detective constable told a special sitting of Dungannon Magistrates’ Court all charges could be connected.
She explained on Friday, September 15 police conducted searches of The Bedstore at Cookstown Road, Dungannon where both women are employed.
Audrey Clarke was located in a workshop along with her son, where drugs paraphernalia was discovered in a wardrobe and £4,000 cash was uncovered in her car.
White powder and cannabis syrup was found in a handbag linked to Imelda Clarke
The detective said boxes of cannabis were intercepted in December 2021 and again in January and March this year, two of which were destined for Audrey’s home and the other to The Bedstore, all bearing fictitious names.
Officers searching two sheds at Audrey’s home – one housing rabbits and dogs – found quantities of herbal cannabis.
Approximately two kilos of drugs were discovered in the second shed and cocaine was found in a bedroom.
A search of Imelda Clarke’s home, which she shares with her elderly husband, recovered large amounts of drugs in a bedroom, the majority of which were in suitcases.
These included 4.5 kilos of synthetic MDMA, 1.2 kilos of MDMA, 1 kilo of cocaine and 15 kilos of cannabis.
A black box containing £40,000 was found in the kitchen.
One officer described the scene as “an Aladdins cave”
Imelda’s husband was arrested and during interview insisted only his wife and daughter go into the bedroom where the drugs were found.
Due to a number of health issues, he was released on bail.
The detective added: “The combined value of drugs is approximately £330,000. Audrey Clarke has denied all knowledge of the items found. She claimed the box of cash at her mother’s was given to her by a Seamus ‘Whitey’ Magee to store, in return for future payment. She claimed to have no knowledge of the contents. Police have tried to trace this person but can find no details.”
Audrey claimed: “Of the £4000 in her vehicle, £500 was from the sale of a ring and the rest was takings from a Bedstore clearance sale . She insisted no evidence would be on her phone and denied any involvement in drugs. However, her phone has revealed strong evidence of drug possession and supply.”
Imelda Clarke likewise denied all allegations and couldn’t account for the items in her property.
The detective conceded both women have caring responsibilities – Imelda for her husband and Audrey for her six children – but “offending was committed within those roles. We are concerned of interference in this investigation, if they are released. The drugs are on an industrial scale, suggesting high level supply.”
Defence lawyers sought bail for both women, pointing out two others had been released following arrest and a distinction should not be made.
District Judge Steven Keown rejected this and refused bail stating: “This is a major, large-scale operation involving drugs and cash. It appears some sort of family business is being used as a front. The accounts in interview seem not to hold up to scrutiny. I have real concerns around hampering this investigation into a professional drugs operation.”
Both women will appear again by video-link next month.