Jay Slater key witness revealed to be former Cardiff drugs ring boss nicknamed 'whispers'

A man who stayed at the same Airbnb as missing teenager Jay Slater was convicted of running a heroin and crack cocaine operation in Cardiff almost a decade ago. Ayub Qassim was one of the last people to see the 19-year-old before his disappearance in Tenerife.

One of Mr Qassim's former criminal accomplices has now spoken about their time operating together in a drug network.

Mr Slater, an apprentice bricklayer from Lancashire, went missing on Monday, June 17. He disappeared shortly after he had left Mr Qassim's rented Airbnb in the village of Masca in the north-west of the Spanish island.

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Mr Qassim, 30, had reportedly invited Mr Slater back to his £40-a-night accommodation on the Sunday night, after they had met at the NRG festival in the south of the island. On the Monday morning Mr Slater is reported to have left the Airbnb and called his friend while walking in a nearby mountainous area, saying he was lost and dehydrated with only 1% battery left on his phone.

Mr Qassim — reportedly known to some people as Whispers because of a soft voice — previously told MailOnline: "He came to my Airbnb alive and he left my Airbnb alive." Spanish police interviewed Mr Qassim and an unnamed friend he was travelling with before determining them to be "irrelevant" to the investigation.

Now a woman who played a role in Mr Qassim's former drug network, Rhoda Singh, 59, has spoken to the Mirror about her experiences of him. Mr Qassim was part of a London-based gang who ran a Cardiff line from Ms Singh's terraced house in Kilcattan Street, Splott.

In October 2014 plain-clothed police officers witnessed men dealing drugs nearby for three hours. That evening the officers raided Ms Singh's home despite attempts to barricade the front door with a large tyre.

Mr Qassim and four others were found in the home with drugs, cash, mobile phones and digital scales. The ringleader was Mr Qassim, who in 2015 was jailed for nine years over the conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Ayub Qassim mugshot
Ayub Qassim -Credit:South Wales Police

Ms Singh was sentenced to a six-month jail term suspended for 18 months after admitting a lesser offence of allowing her residence to be used by the gang. In an interview with the Mirror she said: “We’ve lost touch over the last couple of years but Whispers is a quiet, polite and gentle fella... He wouldn’t hurt a fly. They called him Whispers because of his quiet soft voice.”

Ms Singh, who says she has been drug-free since the Cardiff Crown Court judge handed her a rehabilitation order, added: “I haven’t heard from Whispers for a few years. He used to ring me from prison to make sure I was okay. I think he felt bad that I got caught up in what was going on in his life. I was on heroin for 20 years but I wasn’t involved in dealing or anything."

She continued: “The judge took a liking to me and realised I was quite innocent of what was going on. Whispers and his gang were based around the corner from me. I know it sounds unlikely but they just happened to be in my house at the time. I first met Whispers while clubbing with friends in London, then we saw each other again when he came to Cardiff. He never operated from my home but the police saw him and his mates come in here and the next thing the door was being kicked down.”

Mr Qassim, who is also known by the nickname Johnny Vegas, reportedly drove Mr Slater to the remote Airbnb after they had met at the festival on the Sunday night. He told MailOnline: "I let the geezer stay at mine because he had nowhere else to go, his friends had all left him. I know Jay, through friends, I'm not going to bring someone back to mine if I don't know them. I'm doing the geezer a favour and now my face is all over the news. It's a bit mental. I haven't even done anything."

Mr Slater's last social media post came on the Monday morning when he put an image on Snapchat showing himself holding a cigarette with the backdrop of a mosaic-tiled doorstep at Mr Qassim's rented Airbnb, known as Casa Abuela Tina. Later that morning he made the panicked phone call to his friend Lucy while in the mountains. After extensive searches in the rugged terrain of north-west Tenerife, authorities called off their search efforts on June 30.