Police would have ‘arrested Eastbourne woman for drugs smuggling’

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An Eastbourne woman who died because of an overdose in Argentina would have been arrested for drugs smuggling, an inquest heard today (April 5).

Laura Hill, a 25-year-old dental nurse from Eastbourne, was found dead in a block of flats in Buenos Aires in 2007 after suffering a suspected cocaine overdose.

Speaking at an inquest in Eastbourne today, Detective Inspector Martin Kane of Lancashire Constabulary said that he would have ‘arrested’ Ms Hill for her connections with a gang of international drugs and arms smugglers had she still been alive.

DI Kane, who led a 2010 investigation into the gang, said, “From my inquiries I am satisfied that I would have had her arrested, that she was a drugs courier.”

The inquest also heard a transcript of a tapped phonecall between two members of the drugs gang discussing Ms Hill’s death.

In the phonecall, the men said they believed Ms Hill’s body had been moved by another member of the drugs ring.

Earlier in the hearing Trevor Bowles, a former Detective Chief Inspector who led the Sussex Police investigation into Ms Hill’s death, said she had been seen travelling with members of a drugs smuggling gang in both Argentina and Amsterdam prior to her death.

The men – including Leslie Graham from Dundee, Michael Hailwood from Liverpool and Jason Bowley from Croydon – were jailed in 2010 for a major drugs and firearms conspiracy spanning the UK, Europe and South America.

Ms Hill had also been arrested in Amsterdam with Michael Hailwood following a Dutch investigation.

One of the gang members, Jason Bowley, also gave evidence at the inquest.

The inquest also heard evidence from Allan Bayle, an independent forensics expert, who had examined crime scene photos on behalf of Laura Hill’s family and Peter Canning, a forensic photography consultant, who examined the same photos for the Daily Mail newspaper.

Both experts say they believe the photos showed that Ms Hill had not collapsed in the hallway but was instead dumped there.

They also said it was possible she had been assaulted prior to her death due to signs of injuries in the crime scene photos.

Both reports also raised concerns that the Argentinian police may have failed to thoroughly investigate the scene of the crime and appeared to be missing some evidence.

East Sussex Coroner Alan Craze said, “This is a tragic case for the family but I have been at pains to point out that it is not an unprecedented event that the evidence I get from another country isn’t complete.

“As I said earlier it’s a bit like a jigsaw but it is going to be a jigsaw with pieces missing.”

He also considered that the Home Office pathologist Dr Peter Jerreat, who gave evidence to the inquest yesterday (April 4), had found no evidence Ms Hill had been assaulted or carried prior to her death.

The inquest has been adjourned until a further hearing later this month.

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