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Tuesday 13 November 2018

Video: Remote control drone carrying drugs crash-lands at Wheatfield Prison

Wheatfield Prison
Wheatfield Prison

Conor Feehan and Brian Hutton

A sophisticated plan to land drugs into Wheatfield Prison using a state-of-the-art remote control drone has been foiled after it crash landed in the yard.

The drone - known as a quadcopter and valued by authorities at around €2,000 - crash landed into an exercise yard within Wheatfield Prison in west Dublin.

But before prison officers could retrieve it one inmate managed to pull the drugs off the device and swallow them.

The incident happened at around 11am yesterday morning when the device, called a quad-copter because it has four rotors, was being landed in the yard.

It knocked against a wire in place over the yard to prevent real helicopters from landing and crashed to the ground.

A group of prisoners appear to have been waiting for it and ran towards it, retrieving the drugs before it crash-landed.

A package containing suspected drugs was attached by a rope to the four-bladed device as it hovered over the yard while up to 20 inmates gathered around it in the botched bid to bring in contraband.

But the drone got caught on anti-helicopter wires - in place to prevent any airborne escape attempts - and crash-landed into the complex yesterday morning around 11am.

Attempts by the operators outside the jail to make the quad-copter take off again failed because it was so badly damaged.

The prisoner who swallowed the drugs has been placed in a solitary cell until the drugs pass through his system, and the remains of the quad-copter has been handed to gardai who are investigating the matter.

This isn't a toy," said a prison source.

"It was a high spec drone with a high spec camera through which the operators could monitor the route it was taking.

"They wouldn't have intended to land it in the prison, just hover over it until the inmates got their hands on the contraband."

An digital memory card onboard the mini-helicopter recorded the exact route the device took and also shows the smugglers carried out a trial run before the failed attempt.

"They definitely had done their homework on this," said one source.

A number of prison staff noticed the commotion as the device crash landed and intercepted the operation.

It is understood the group of inmates huddled around one prisoner - the suspected ringleader who is serving an eight year sentence for robbery - as he hid the package by pushing it inside himself.

He has been put in solitary confinement under 24 hour watch until the contraband is retrieved.

The drone was seized and has been handed over to the Garda (Irish police) who are carrying out their own investigation.

Prison authorities have also launched an inquiry that is expected to lead to disciplinary action against the suspected ringleader and his accomplices.

The Irish Prison Service would not discuss the details but confirmed an incident had occurred.

"It shows you the lengths people will go to get contraband into prisons but this has backfired on them," a source said.

"They have lost a very expensive quadcopter, will lose the suspected drugs and face disciplinary procedures as well as possible charges from the Garda investigation."

The Garda confirmed they are examining the drone for evidence as part of an investigation into the smuggling attempt.

"Gardai were handed a device from prison service staff and the matter is under investigation," a spokeswoman said.

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