AN elderly gardener arrested for dealing when he mistook a drugs haul as plant food finally saw the nightmare end – on his 75th birthday.
Allotment veteran Bryan Routledge’s ordeal began almost two years ago when £19,000 worth of amphetamine was found at his home.
The retired joiner and scrapyard crane driver was arrested, quizzed and charged with possessing the near two-kilo recovery with intent to supply.
But Mr Routledge – who is in failing health and living alone at Beechwood Crescent, Marley Potts, Sunderland – told how he had innocently found the white carrier bag in his garden.
He thought the powder packed inside was nothing more sinister than lime-based plant feed left by an allotment pal and only moved it into his kitchen to keep it dry.
And he was given the perfect birthday tonic when crown lawyers finally dropped the case with the pensioner about to stand trial before a Newcastle Crown Court jury.
His barrister Glen Gatland said “I can only say this has made Mr Routledge a very happy man on his 75th birthday.”
Recorder Philip Engleman had made his own feelings known in a behind-closed-doors session with lawyers.
And back in open court he told Mr Routledge: “I entirely agree with the decision. There is no need for any trial and you are free to go. But please do avoid having any more bags of ‘trench’ food in your possession”.
Police had raided Mr Routledge’s home – together with another nearby property – in April 2011. While nothing was found at the other premises, the carrier bag of ‘speed’ was in full view on the floor of the pensioner’s kitchen.
Forensic tests confirmed it was a haul of 7% pure amphetamine capable of making almost 2,000 street deals – not the plant supplement Mr Routledge believed.
Emma Dowling, prosecuting, said the case had been fully reviewed. She told the court: “The alleged offence was almost two years ago and in that period it is right to say the defendant’s health has deteriorated to quite an extent.
“That has been relayed to those who instruct me, and having taken everything into account – the seriousness of the allegation but also the defendant’s health – the prosecution now take the view it would not be in the public interest to have a trial in relation to this matter.”
Ms Dowling formally offered no evidence.