Drug dealers peddled cannabis disguised as Skittles and Jelly Tots out of corner shop

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In scenes that sounded like an episode of BBC1 crime drama Line of Duty, police told of how known drug dealers took over Speedwell Mini Market to ply their trade, preying on vulnerable children to do their dirty work. Speedwell Mini Market in St George, Bristol became a hub for organised crime with a gang using vulnerable children to ferry the drugs around the city. Cannabis was bundled into sweet packets such as Skittles and Jelly Tots to disguise it before being sold, a council heard.

Bristol City Council licensing sub-committee heard that pre-printed empty Skittles and Jelly Tots packets were found on the premises on Ventor Road.

Sports cars regularly made brief stops at the shop to collect packages and police had also found mobile SIM cards and illicit Viagra on sale behind the shop counter.

Officers found pre-printed ready to be sealed sweet packets, alongside mobile SIM cards, often used for untraceable “burner phones”, as well as illicit Viagra for sale behind the counter, police told Bristol City Council licensing sub-committee.

A large amount of CCTV coverage inside the shop, monitored from elsewhere, raised suspicions further, the panel heard on Thursday, January 13.

Councillors agreed with an application by Avon & Somerset Constabulary to revoke the premises licence. Inspector Kris Harris told members there had been a huge increase in reports of suspicious activity at the shop over the last 18 months, with more than 100 calls from the public, plus intelligence from sources.

He said: “We have significant concerns related to the premises. If action is not taken, there is a risk of serious harm or exploitation taking place.”

Inspector Harris, based at Trinity Road police station, said the store was causing a drain on police time and resources.

He said the premises licence holder, Mohammed Arsan Hussein, had been absent from the business for some time.

The police inspector said: “He has effectively lost control of the premises and we believe the premises are being run by an organised crime group, these members not being the premises licence holder or the designated premises supervisor.”

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Mr Hussein told the panel he was “shocked” and “horrified” that the shop had become a base for criminals and that his family had run it for years before his father leased it out in 2017, since when he had assumed he had nothing to do with it.
Beat manager PC Clare Heard told Thursday’s licensing sub-committee meeting: “This place was being used as a hub to facilitate criminal activity.

“A lot of the people I saw were from across the whole of Bristol, so it was a hub of activity for the whole of Bristol, not just the local area.”

She said the shop had little on the shelves, no backroom stock or staff rota and its hours were “erratic”.

She added: “There were issues of public nuisance related to drug dealing, and there was recognisable suspicious activity of people coming up on pedal cycles, making exchanges and then cycling away.

“There were a lot of children.

“A lot of vulnerable kids live in that area, and I would quite often see youngsters hanging around with adults whom I would recognise as related to OCGs (organised crime groups) and involved in drug dealing.”

Police licensing officer Louise Mowbray told the hearing: “We are really concerned about young people frequenting these premises – the vulnerability, exploitation and criminality.

“These reports continue to come in. We have lots of young people associating with drug dealers and organised crime.”

Councillors agreed with an application by Avon and Somerset Constabulary to revoke the shop’s licence.

Mr Hussein, 35, a truck driver, told members he did not realise his name was still on the licence and did not object to the licence being revoked.

Additional reporting by Adam Postons

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