A pregnant war hero has been jailed after taking her seven-year-old daughter on a £170,000 heroin run to Europe – so she could pretend they had been to DISNEYLAND.
Naomi Thriepland, 25, was caught with the drugs haul in the back of a black BMW convertible in Folkestone, Kent, in December 2011 – with her daughter Aiesha by her side.
The drugs mule told customs officials at Coquelles, France, she was returning with her daughter from Disneyland Paris.
But the devious mother had been paid £8,000 to drive to Amsterdam and load up with 3.44 kilos of heroin and another 12 kilos of cutting agents, Canterbury Crown Court heard.
Thriepland was arrested and charged with smuggling and will serve four years in jail after pleading guilty to drugs charges.
The former Lance Corporal, based with a Bomb Disposal Unit attached to the Grenadier Guards, tackled IEDs in Iraq and Afghanistan but quit to spend more time with daughter.
In 2009 Aiesha, then five, wept on a national television when she spoke to her serving mum in Afghanistan via a satellite link-up as a Christmas surprise.
Disgraced Thriepland, who was earning #105 a week as a trainee beautician, will now give birth to her second child behind bars and have vastly limited contact with Aiesha, now eight.
Jailing her on Monday, Judge Heather Norton said: “You made that trip in order to plan the drug smuggling run – and you did what you did for financial gain.
“More than that, you took your seven-year-old child with you as some kind of family cover putting that child at risk.
“You claim you became a courier to give her a better life but that child is now likely to suffer more than you.
“You have served this country with a number of tours in Iraq and Afghanistan and in perilous positions; so whatever else can be said about you, this was certainly out of character.”
Thriepland, from Dalton-In-Furness, Cumbria, was stopped by UK border force at the Channel Tunnel entrance at Coquelles, France, on December 5, 2011.
She pleaded guilty to “being knowingly concerned in the fraudulent evasion or attempted evasion of the prohibition on importation imposed by section 3(1) of the Misuse of Drugs Act 1971 contrary to section 170 (2)(b) of the Customs and Excise Management Act 1979″ at Canterbury Crown Court on October 22, 2012.”
Despite denying she made previous drugs runs to Europe Thriepland admitted she had made a “dummy run” a month earlier.
When she was finally caught the drugs were hidden inside the expensive car’s soft top while the mother and daughter stayed at an hotel.
The court was told a probe into Thriepland’s financial dealings revealed that despite claiming to be paid just £7 an hour for a 15 hour weekly job, £10,500 had been transferred into her bank account.
Mary Jaqcobson, prosecuting, told the court: “On December 5 2011 on the inbound controls at Coquelles. The defendant was stopped in a black BMW Convertible.
“She had her seven-year-old-daughter with her. She said that she had been to Disneyland Paris and that it was a hire car.
“When the car was searched officers found in the the car’s roof 3.441 kilos of heroin and 11.9 kilos of cutting agents of caffeine and paracetamol.
“The street value for the drugs was £172,000. They were in separate packages and were subsequently analysed and found to be between 31 and 36 per cent purity.”
Christopher Baur, defending, said Thriepland had agreed to be paid £8000 for the drugs run.
He told the court she had not acted in “malice or wickedness but rather stupidity and with an element of greed” and she wanted “better conditions for her child.”
Mr Baur said: “She succumbed to the temptation of doing this run for £8000. She naturally regrets her involvement and she has shown remorse.
“She clearly did not think through the dangers or the harmful effects on potential users of the drugs.
“But she says that she wasn’t in the loop so far as those who worked out the run and who paid that sort of money.
“She wasn’t involved in putting the drugs into the car. The car was taken away when she was at an hotel in Amsterdam.
“She didn’t actually see what was in the car. She said that she did this because she wanted to better her situation in particular for her child and the irony is not lost on her.
“The child is now living with an aunt and she is 16 weeks pregnant. That was not planned and not done, as it were, in preparation for these proceedings.
“She is in a long term relationship with the child’s father, who sits in court. She will now give birth to her child in prison.
“The situation she finds herself in is dire because she wasn’t coerced into it but neither was she a major player in the enterprise. She was quite naive. She did it to better conditions for her child.”
Thriepland was praised for tackling IEDs in Afghanistan and broke down as the Canterbury Crown Court judge spoke of her service.
The court heard she served in the army for six years including with bomb disposal teams in Afghanistan.
Her mother Fiona Thriepland, 53, who cared for Aiesha while her daughter served overseas, raised more than #600 for army charity Help for Heroes
Malcolm Bragg, from the Border Force said: “Drug trafficking is a serious offence and those convicted will face prison sentences.
“Our message to those who would consider it is that it’s just not worth it.
“Border Force officers will continue to work diligently to keep our border secure and to make life as tough as possible for those who seek to profit from this evil trade.”
In 2009 Naomi Thriepland’s daughter Aiesha cried on national television after she was given the chance to speak to her mother via satellite link from the GMTV sofa shortly before Christmas.