Yesterday at Woolwich Crown Court, eight men were found guilty of attempting a large-scale drugs importation from Holland to Bawdsey Quay in Suffolk. The sophisticated and well planned drugs operation culminated in the attempted import of drugs in a specially-designed motor boat. The plan was foiled when Customs law enforcement officers intercepted the gang, who had been under surveillance, in the early hours of 3 May 2001.

Customs law enforcement Assistant Chief Investigation Officer Jim Fitzpatrick said: “The characters in this trafficking organisation were established, well organised criminals who seemed to think they were infallible. They were observed by Customs planning this operation in full public view and were arrested red handed on the beach with the support of armed police.”

The principal of the drugs ring, Mark Rothermel, 42, from Chelmsford, AKA ‘Mental Mark’, is well known to law enforcement officers and featured in the gangster book ‘Essex Boys’. The former body builder and night club bouncer was previously been convicted for the illegal disposal of a corpse near Chelmsford. He organised and systematically planned this attempted importation of 3.3kg of amphetamine (2.1kg at 100 per cent purity) and 40kg of high-grade herbal cannabis (Skunk).

Rothermel and his second-in-command Sean Clarke, 37, of Barking, Essex, were observed by Customs law enforcement officers in the months leading up to the ‘knock’ carrying out checks of remote beaches in East Anglia – maps and notes giving marks out of ten for ‘good spots’ were later discovered by Customs. Notes in Rothermel’s handwriting gave Bawdsey ten out of ten for being the ideal site for landing the drugs. Clarke was sentenced to four years imprisonment.

On 1 May 2001 Rothermel and another co-defendant Brian Richardson, 37, from Basildon, Essex, travelled from Dover to Zeebrugge and them on to the Netherlands where they acquired the drugs. They loaded the drugs into the motor boat that had arrived specially from Point Clear in Essex, and then returned to the UK via the Channel Tunnel to await the return of the boat at Bawdsley Bay Beach. Customs and armed police swooped on the drugs ‘reception party’ and the boat at 0800 on 3 May last year and arrests at several properties followed. Richardson was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

Rothermel’s gang also included:
Angel Jiminez, a French national, 38, and experienced sailor. Known as ‘Kermit’ to the organisation, he piloted the vessel from Point Clear in Essex to Breskens in Holland and then back across the North Sea to Bawdsey – this trip took around 18 hours. Jiminez was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment.

Leonard Haworth, 54, from Ventnor, Isle of Wight, was a boat specialist known as ‘Pugwash’. He helped Rothermel and Jimenez prepare the boat for its journey to Holland and back and offered technical assistance. He also provided the boat for this smuggling enterprise. Haworth was sentenced to three-and-a-half years’ imprisonment and 18 months for a previous case.

John McCann, 42, from Romford, Essex, known as ‘Wonky’ to the organisation, was responsible for the safe launch location at Point Clear and was there to recover the boat. He had also taken part in the survey of one of the beaches and chaperoned Haworth and Jimenez around Essex. McCann was found guilty. Probation reports have been called for.

Guy Clements, 39, from Dagenham, Essex, was known to the organisation as ‘Gorilla’. He also surveyed Bawdsey beach and awaited the importation of the vessel. Clements was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment.

Matthew Howes, 25, from Grays, Essex, was known as ‘Handsome Matt’ and ‘Young Arse’. Howes accompanied Clements to Bawdsey to receive the drugs from Jimenez. Howes was sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. Clark, Howes and Clements all worked at the venue nightc