Cocaine seizure - Operation Peninsula

Det. Chief Sup. Vince McFadden

Det. Chief Sup. Vince McFadden

1988: Operation Peninsula: Largest cocaine seizure to date – Rene and Rudi Black: Smithbrook Kilns Cranleigh. Banks are obliged to notify large cash movement and had alerted the National Drugs Intelligence Unit. Operation Peninsula a two month surveillance operation leading to an industrial estate near Heathrow and some time later an entry was made and cocaine and a quantity of chemicals found. Rene Black was arrested but Rudi was in the USA with a stable girl.

There was a drug factory at the home of Rene in Ellen's Green where plans were made to flood Britain with one hundred and eighty kilograms of cocaine with a market value of £15.5m. Black tried to reduce his sentence by co-operating and talking about who his distributors were and in effect antagonised some very dangerous people requiring constant diligence when moving Black to and from court – with a £1m price on his head. He was convicted as were the distributors.

The Drug Squad arrested Rene Black a Peruvian for manufacturing and smuggling cocaine. He had a drugs factory at Smithbrook Kiln on the A281 at Cranleigh where he produced vast amounts of illegal drugs. Black's premises were a small industrial unit set amongst a number of others in a very rural area. This would of course make surveillance more complicated.

However, the police had many officers trained in skills known as CROPS or to give it its full title Covert Rural Observation Posts. Within the firearms team there were specialists, as there were in all major criminal investigation squads. It takes a strong nerve to do it.

Back to Black who was making so much money that he had a machine to count the notes and a Porsche or Ferrari for every day of the week. It was a huge job made bigger when Black started, once arrested, to talk about drug smugglers he had known and worked with. He was facing a lengthy sentence and he was trying to talk his way out of more than a few years inside. He was soon on the hit list for the South American drugs barons and the villains on the Costa del Sol put out a contract on his life.

Helicopter used to transfer Rene Black to court

Operations were tasked with getting him to and from a variety of courts without him being murdered. It was planned that he would go to a number of courts and that every time the routes and mode of transport would vary. Police used helicopters to fly him to HQ and then court; to Redhill airfield and the Battersea Heliport for an appearance in London and other variations. For road movements Surrey used the armoured Category "A" prison vans driven by the Metropolitan Police.

Every time Black was moved the Firearms Support Team with senior Operations Officers as the cadre officer, provided an armed escort. The court was searched for bombs and we were led by motorcycle escorts into the court and eventually away again. One long move was to Southwark Crown Court.

A Sussex helicopter took the prisoner from Lewes prison to Redhill, and from there he was placed in the Cat "A" van and under a Metropolitan Police motorcycle escort, which included cover all the way by their helicopter, took him into central London. Being under escort by the Metropolitan Police Special Escort Group is like going through butter with a hot knife.

Making a great deal of noise with numerous sirens wailing, the convoy drove all over the road ensuring that at no time did they come to a halt. A stationary convoy is an exposed one. Keeping moving is the priority and the major skill. Traffic lights, one-way systems or keep left bollards had no meaning. At all costs keep moving. No one killed him and he gave evidence and probably he is still in prison.

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