Popular dock worker threw everything away for 'a quid'

Kevin Murphy
Kevin Murphy -Credit:Merseyside Police

A "popular" dock worker threw away his well paid job and family life in return for "a quid" and ended up with a lengthy stretch behind bars.

Kevin Murphy secretly became embroiled in a plot to smuggle 300kg of cocaine into the UK from Brazil via the Port of Liverpool. The 41-year-old, formerly of Ivy Leigh in Tuebrook, was said to have acted as a "facilitator" between Robert Bennett and Peter McQuade, who hatched the plan using encrypted communications platform EncroChat.

Liverpool Crown Court heard that Bennett, with who he had "familial relations", utilised the handle "Dior6" on the network prior to it being infiltrated by French police in 2020. Murphy's work colleague McQuade, who went by the username "NinjaBasil", was meanwhile tasked with "retrieving the drugs from shipping containers" in his role as an operations manager at the port.

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The 39-year-old, of Downside Close in Netherton, was described as the "pull out man" and was said to have been involved in a previous importation of 150kg of the class A substance through his employment with Peel Ports. Bennett, originally from Huyton but now of Smithy Glen Drive in Orrell, told the user "SinCityGold" in one message on April 26: "They done one a few months ago, 150 on it."

"Middle man" Murphy was referred to as his "nephew" by the 50-year-old, who had previously been in a relationship with his aunt. Martine Snowdon, prosecuting, said on Friday: "Mr Murphy was aware of the nature of Mr Bennett's business with Paul McQuade and the fact that they communicated via encrypted handles.

"Mr Murphy acted as a facilitator of communication between Bennett and McQuade in connection with their plans to import cocaine. This assisted the other conspirators in planning several importations of cocaine into Liverpool docks."

Bennett was described as having engaged in "discussions surrounding the feasibility of an importation from South America" with both "FullFlock" and Sin City Gold, who sounded out suppliers in Colombia who required proof of a successful dummy run before they would agree to any deal. He met with Murphy at his home on May 1 before messaging Full Flock: "Just in nephew's, he just popped out to give lad the details of that box."

Cell siting data then suggested a meeting between McQuade and Murphy near to Gilmoss Industrial Estate in Fazakerley. A day later, Bennett was involved in the handover of 2kg of cocaine to McQuade for a price of £37,000 per kilo "as an incentive to cement their business relationship".

Full Flock and Bennett also discussed potential importation routes from Ecuador and Costa Rica, while McQuade advised his co-defendant over the "best containers to use to avoid the consignment being intercepted by the port authorities". The dad-of-two told him via EncroChat: "Fridges are defo the hardest.

"The place is camera'd up. We've got a couple of blind spots, but wouldn't be able to put a fridge box in there."

Bennett subsequently passed this intelligence on to Full Flock. McQuade added that "working with Brazil was a nightmare" and said: "Prob opened five boxes from there and been nothing in them."

He also described having "done a job a few years ago from Ecuador" in which drugs were smuggled into the port in a container of tinned tuna. The worker said he could "take up to 500kg" and discussed the "use of legitimate companies and replica seals".

McQuade outlined how they could claim that the containers had been damaged in order to gain access to the goods inside in private. Bennett and Murphy then met on May 17, after which the former "provided Full Flock with the information supplied".

He said in one message: "Was with nephew. Given him his quid. Was telling me a tale of in their place, about two boxes from Pan. In the last few days, a lad their works who sort of knows what goes on came in with two box numbers approached the lad with them and they already been flagged for a ragging.

"He chased the lad and showed him email he’s received before they landed. Said cuzzy waited quayside as boat come in and escorted two boxes away."

Murphy's "quid" was said to amount to £1,000, while "pan" is believed to have been a reference to Panama.

Then, on May 20, Murphy "alerted Bennett to a potential issue regarding the box". Bennett subsequently told Sin City Gold that he had "lost that girl's number", which Ms Snowdon said was a "coded reference to the details of a container" supplied on May 1.

This message read: "Think pull out has lot this number for the Chile box. Nephew belled me to come and see him and he phoned pull out in work, he said he lost girl's phone number."

Bennett provided an update to Full Flock on May 23, telling him that "everything had been delayed for the last few days because of wind". Then, on May 30, the two hatched a plan to import 300kg of cocaine from Brazil at a cost of $7,500 per kilo.

As part of this arrangement, Bennett was to keep 10kg for onward supply and was said to have handed over £97,000 in payment for these drugs. The messages ended on June 5 2020, when Full Flock told Bennett he was "waiting to hear from Brazil, who had told him they would load tonight".

Murphy has two previous convictions for drug trafficking, including receiving two years for possession with intent to supply a class A drug in 2003. He was then handed 69 months for being concerned in the supply of cocaine in 2013 in relation to half a kilogram which was delivered from Merseyside to the Lancashire area.

Michael Scholes, defending, told the court today: "In essence, he was passing messages backwards and forwards between two principal offenders. His position is aggravated by his previous convictions. He and Mr McQuade were not only work colleagues but social friends as well. The connection with Mr McQuade significantly predates any offending behaviour.

"They were very good friends. In my submission, these are limited functions performed at the behest of others for limited reward.

"There is no suggestion - other than a reference to a quid, a thousand pounds - of significant reward being involved. It is not trivial, but I invite the court not to regard it as in any way proportionate to the rewards that were clearly available for others involved in the enterprise.

"Mr Murphy was employed from May 2017 as a dock worker. This is not a case where this criminality arose within a very short time of him obtaining employment. He had tried to go straight and find well paid employment. He had become the principal breadwinner of the family.

"It was well paid employment, and he wrecked it. It represents the other side of this defendant's personality. He was well capable of holding down a job which involved very hard work. He was a popular employee, popular with his peers.

"There has been a significant effect of his incarceration on his family. There have been extraordinary difficulties faced by those close to him in his absence."

Murphy - now of Wentworth Crescent in Braintree, Essex - admitted assisting in the fraudulent evasion on the prohibition on the importation of cocaine. Wearing a white shirt and jeans in the dock, he waved to his supporters in the public gallery as he was led to the cells after being jailed for eight years.

Sentencing, Judge Anil Murray said: "Robert Bennett and Paul McQuade, along with others, were involved in a conspiracy to import 300kg of cocaine from Brazil into the port where you worked as a driver. You knew Paul McQuade from work and you were also friends.

"He was in a trusted position at the port, and he breached that trust. I accept that this is not a case where you were acting in breach of trust.

"You also knew Robert Bennett, you were the son of his partner's sister. You were aware of Robert Bennett's business in relation to importing drugs.

"You acted as a middle man to put the two of them in touch with each other, no doubt so their clean phones were not in touch with each other. You had meetings with Robert Bennett and passed on information about Paul McQuade.

"It seems that payment of £1,000 was passed onto you. It must have been clear that a substantial amount of drugs were involved.

"You clearly did not get this job in order to commit this offence. You had a good work record until you lost your job.

"You have now lost the means of supporting your family. I have taken into account your personal mitigation."

Bennett admitted two counts of fraudulently evading the prohibition on the importation of cocaine while McQuade pleaded guilty to fraudulently evading the prohibition on the importation of cocaine, conspiracy to supply cocaine and conspiracy to possess criminal property. They will be sentenced on Wednesday next week.

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