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  1. ITV Report

Carlisle Man wanted in connection with £7.2m cocaine smuggling deal

Lee James Hartness Photo: National Crime Agency

Police are hunting a Carlisle man wanted in connection with a plot to smuggle £7m worth of cocaine into the country concealed in a lorry trailer.

Border Force officers searched a a lorry that had been travelling to Dover from France in November 2016 and discovered more than 90kg of cocaine in a purpose-built concealed area in the trailer.

The National Crime Agency said that if cut and adulterated, the Class A drugs had an potential street value of £7.2m.

Following an NCA investigation, lorry driver Lee James Hartness was charged with importing Class A drugs and a summons was sent in August this year for the 47-year-old to attend court.

But Hartness failed to attend his hearing and an arrest warrant was issued, the NCA said.

Branch Commander Matt Rivers said despite "extensive inquiries", the NCA had been unable to track down Hartness.

We are appealing to members of the public who may know the whereabouts of Hartness or have any information that can help us find him. I would like to remind anyone helping Hartness, or frustrating our attempts to locate him, they could find themselves being arrested."

– Matt Rivers, Branch Commander

Two accomplices, brothers Glen and Andrew Harrison, were bailed and are due to stand trial at Canterbury Crown Court in February next year in relation to a second importation attempt.

Hartness is white, about 6ft tall with a medium build and speaks with a northern accent. The NCA said his arms are heavily tattooed with Japanese flower designs and he has a dragon and serpent tattoo on his chest.

He is known to have connections in Carlisle, Newcastle upon Tyne and Northern Ireland.

Anyone with information about his whereabouts should call the NCA on 0370 496 7622 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.