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Haverfordwest: Computer shops’ drugs factory link

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Drugs link: Pembs PC in Haverfordwest

Drugs link: Pembs PC in Haverfordwest

A PEMBROKESHIRE businessman made courtroom drama after admitting to drugs offences at the last minute despite previously denying charges against him.

44-year-old Alistair Kevin Firth, who previously owned computer shops in Haverfordwest and Pembroke, and his co-accused, Daniel Cobbinah, were charged earlier this year with possession of drugs with intent to supply. The pair appeared at Swansea Crown Court on Wednesday (10th) to face a trial however they dramatically changed their pleas as the case was about to start.

At earlier hearings, former ‘Pembs PC’ owner Mr Firth of The Green, Tenby, and Mr Cobbinah both denied their guilt. They were charged in January and appeared for the first time in Haverfordwest Magistrates’ Court on February 18.

The charges were laid after the PC specialists were found to be manufacturing and selling a homemade drug called ‘Diet Coke’ which is a dangerous mixture of dental anaesthetic Benzocaine and a psycho-stimulant chemical called Ethylphenidate, known as ‘Eph’. Although illegal in Jersey since 2009, it has only recently become controlled in mainland UK, but selling it mixed with Benzocaine as a synthetic  ‘cocaine’ is classed as a controlled drug.

A HIGH STREET OPERATION

Firth and Cobbinah had also been selling and distributing the drug from the Pembs PC computer store in Market Street, Haverfordwest. According to a former employee the pair had been using a flyer distribution company operated from the premises, trading as ‘Pembrokeshire Flyer’, as a front to facilitate the enterprise. They had also hidden drugs inside computer cases.

The source close to the company told us: “I know that some of the staff were paid or partly paid, or given bonuses in drugs. This included staff working in the shop as well as distributors working for Pembrokeshire Flyer.”

A former employee told The Herald: “I was given the drug all the time. I snorted loads of it sometimes instead of wages. But I had to leave to get a job that paid real cash. You can’t buy food with drugs.”

Tragic: Anthony Gammer

Tragic: Anthony Gammer

In August 2013 The Herald reported that Dyfed-Powys Police confirmed a number of people had been arrested as part of an ongoing investigation into the circumstances leading up to the death of two young men in Milford Haven the previous month. One of those men, Anthony Gammer, 27, was employed by Firth at the time of his death. He had been taken on by the company as a flyer distributor shortly before he passed away, and died at home after taking a cocktail of drugs, with Firth’s Pembs PC van parked on his drive.

Pembrokeshire Coroner’s Court ruled earlier this year that Mr Gammer had died from “central nervous system compression” after consuming a lethal mixture of cannabis, dihydrocodeine, ketamine and diazepam.

At the time of Mr Gammer’s untimely passing, we reported that some of those who were arrested in connection with the death were being investigated for the suspected manufacturing and supplying of drugs. At the time the police told The Herald: “We can confirm we are investigating the circumstances into two deaths in Milford Haven on July 26, 2013 and July 30, 2013.”

The Herald is not linking the death of Anthony Gammer directly to the drug-manufacturing operation at Pembs PC – however, we are able to report that days before his death, Mr Gammer told a Herald reporter that he had been given drugs by Mr Firth whilst he was working for him. This information was also confirmed by another member of staff working for Mr Firth at the time.

PILL PRESS

Pill press: Drugs making equipment was found by police

Pill press: Drugs making equipment was found by police

The Herald learned on August 1 last year that police went to the location of an industrial pill making machine, which had been brought to a local engineering firm for repair. The Herald understands that police acted on information from a source close to Mr Firth’s operation, as the duo were making and selling ‘Diet Coke’ in both its white powdered form and as pills.

There is no indication or suggestion that the engineering firm knew the device’s true purpose at any stage. Speaking exclusively to this newspaper, the owner of the company, whose identity we are protecting, said: “We had been dropped the machine by a gentleman wanting it to be repaired; we had not started looking at it yet, as we had not received any payment. Next thing, the police turned up and seized it.”

CHIP SHOP CANNABIS FARM

In 2012 drug-pusher Firth was jailed for 20 months along with local Brian Davies, 67, after their cannabis factory was discovered above the Spinnaker chip shop in Upper Frog Street, Tenby. Another man, Mark Millard, then aged 36 and of Letterston, was given a suspended jail sentence for acting as ‘gardener’ for the illegal operation.

The three admitted their involvement in the production of 166 cannabis plants between December 1, 2010, and April 14, 2011. Mr Firth also admitted possessing 22 20gram bags of cannabis found at his home.

Judge Keith Thomas said he was satisfied that Firth had supplied some of the equipment used in the cannabis operation. At the time, the court heard that two rooms at the Spinnaker had been converted into a cannabis factory and the plants could have yielded six kilos of the drug. Sitting at Swansea Crown Court. the judge ruled that Firth had personally made £21,912 from the operation. He was released from prison at the start of 2013, but was manufacturing synthetic cocaine ‘Diet Coke’ within months of his release.

Staff bonuses: Employees received 'white powder' from Firth

Staff bonuses: Employees received ‘white powder’ from Firth

It is understood that Mr Firth now operates a second hand car dealership. Following his last minute plea to admitting possessing drugs with intent to supply, both he and Mr Cobbinah – who admitted the same –were bailed, and are due to reappear for sentencing on January 16.

The Pembrokeshire Herald has been informed by Swansea Crown Court that at the time the pair were charged the drugs found were as yet unclassified by the government. Therefore they were charged with possession with intent to supply a class A drug. However, the drug has now been classified by the authorities. Therefore, on Firth’s and Cobbinah’s criminal records the crime will now recorded as possession with intent to supply a controlled class B drug.

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Cyclist killed on A40 was serving police officer, force confirms

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A CYCLIST who died after a crash with a van on the A40 in Carmarthenshire was a serving police officer with Dyfed-Powys Police, the force has confirmed in a statement to Herald.Wales.

The driver of the van involved in the crash, which happened on Thursday (Feb 25) has been arrested on suspicion of causing death by dangerous driving, it was confirmed on Friday (Feb 26).

Police are investigating the fatal collision, which caused the road to be closed for 12 hours, and are asking for any witnesses to come forward by calling 101.

37-year-old Lynwen Thomas, who is a former student at Ysgol Bro Myrddin, Croes-y-Ceiliog, Carmarthen, was a sergeant and a very well-respected member of Dyfed-Powys Police.

A spokesperson for the police said in a statement: “Our thoughts are with her family, friends and colleagues, who have all been offered specialist support. We ask that family members are given the privacy they need at this difficult time.”

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Health

Pembrokeshire residents urged to take a virtual GP consultation when offered

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PEMBROKESHIRE residents are being urged to take up the offer of a virtual consultation, over the phone or video call with their GP, to help Keep Wales Safe during the current lockdown ‘stay at home’ restrictions.

The way we access local NHS services is changing, with more ways in which you can consult your doctor or nurse. Most surgeries now offer telephone as well as electronic advice consultations in the first instance. Following your advice call, a face to face appointment may be organised, but video consultations are also available. You can now speak to a doctor or healthcare professional using the video camera in your smartphone, tablet or computer and a connection to the internet. This is often more convenient and can save you time, as you will not need to travel for a face-to-face appointment. The system used is confidential and secure.

In a recent YouGov survey carried out for the Welsh Government’s Keep Wales Safe campaign only 27% of residents in Mid and West Wales had made use of the GP virtual service over the past 12 months with just 57% having heard of the service. However, 88% believed it was important to have access to a remote GP consultation once they had learnt of its existence.

Jill Paterson, Director of Primary Care, Community and Long Term Care at Hywel Dda University Health Board, said: “If you are offered a video consultation appointment this is because your Health Care Professional has indicated that is it safe and appropriate to do so. Your video appointment will be confidential and will not be recorded. If you require support please contact your GP surgery using the number provided in the appointment confirmation.”

She continued: “By putting off small problems or regular appointments you could potentially be putting more strain on NHS emergency services so please, help us to help you, do not put anything off. Local GP surgeries are open and are there to offer medical advice and consult patients.”

After being offered a video consultation you will be sent a letter, email or text with details of your appointment. This communication will contain details of the service that has requested to see you by video and have provided a web address link. You can type or copy the web address link into a web browser via an internet enabled device and this will take you to the video clinic waiting area.

  • In order to access your virtual appointment, you will need:
  • Access to a device that will allow you to access the internet. You should use Google Chrome or Microsoft Edge web browser on a desktop or laptop, or on an Android tablet or smartphone or Safari web browser on an Apple iMac, MacBook, iPad, or iPhone.
  • Your device will need a webcam (camera), speakers and microphone.
  • A good internet connection (if you can watch a YouTube video, this is good indication that you have a good connection).
  • An internet usage plan that is sufficient to cover the data consumption of a video call – ideally use a Wi-Fi connection if you have this available.

Sixty two percent of those surveyed by YouGov in Mid and West Wales said they will continue to access NHS services using the new ways that have been introduced as a result of the pandemic. The new methods include making more use of pharmacists; virtual GP consultations and using the NHS 111 online and telephone services.

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‘Cautious optimism’ for county’s tourism sector – but clarity still needed

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‘GIVE us clarity’ is the overriding message from the County’s tourism and hospitality businesses as the sector looks forward with cautious optimism to another busy season.

In a meeting hosted by Preseli Pembrokeshire MP Stephen Crabb, thirty key local businesses were able to share their views with Paul Davies MS, Pembrokeshire County Council, the National Park and Visit Pembrokeshire.

The meeting focussed on the need for business support measures so long as uncertainty remains over the timetable for re-opening the economy in Wales.

Stephen Crabb said: “There is a lot of belief around that this summer will see another ‘staycation’ boom so long as the vaccination programme continues to make good progress and infection rates fall. Pembrokeshire has had a lot of national media coverage in recent months and could experience a bumper season but it’s crucial we get the re-opening right. There is a clear need for some kind of timetable to help businesses prepare appropriately and for clear rules to avoid confusion and contradictory messages.”

Paul Davies said: “It was a pleasure to hear from tourism businesses across Pembrokeshire about some of the challenges that they’re currently facing. The message was pretty clear – they want clarity from the Welsh Government and some timescales by which they can start to plan for reopening. I’ll certainly be taking back the concerns highlighted during the meeting and raising them with Welsh Government Ministers at the Senedd.”

Emma Thornton from Visit Pembrokeshire added: “Great to attend the Hospitality and Tourism Round table event today and to have the opportunity to discuss the ongoing challenges our industry faces over the coming months but also to share a collective optimism for what we believe will be a really strong year for tourism in Pembrokeshire when we are able to reopen and welcome our visitors back.

“Visit Pembrokeshire as the new Destination Management (DMO) for Pembrokeshire will be working closely with local stakeholders and businesses to help realise this opportunity in a sustainable and responsible way mindful of protecting what makes our beautiful county so special”

Stephen Crabb: Wants clarity for tourism businesses

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