They did their deals on Katoomba Street, in the Coles carpark, the Aldi carpark, the Carrington beer garden, the Harp and Fiddle pub, in Kingsford Smith Park and in the Cecil Guest House.
Heroin, ice, ecstasy, LSD, cocaine and cannabis changed hands for cash in myriad transactions around Katoomba’s CBD. And all under the watchful eye of a team of surveillance police.
A six-month investigation into drug dealing in the Katoomba area culminated last Wednesday with raids on a number of properties in the Upper Mountains and the arrest of 12 people.
More than 70 charges were laid.
A 10-year-old boy was found at one of the houses raided — in Hill View Road, a quiet dead-end street off Fourth Avenue in North Katoomba. There was also a marijuana plantation in a rear sunroom, complete with polystyrene tubs and plastic irrigation and roof sheeting. Police seized and later destroyed 310 plants and also found 3.2 kilograms of cannabis in a wardrobe and the pantry, with a potential street value of more than $470,000.
They also seized 56 ecstasy tablets, 18 grams of ecstasy powder, five LSD tabs, 15 grams of cannabis seeds and $5360 in cash at the same house.
The resident, 43-year-old Adrian Bidgood, allegedly admitted he owned the drugs and told police he supplied his close friends to supplement his income as a labourer. It is understood he shared custody of his son with the boy’s mother.
One of the three women arrested had allegedly been dealing from the Wellington St, Katoomba, house she shares with her sons, aged nine and four. She faces a charge of knowingly allowing a child to be exposed to drugs, among other supply charges.
According to a police facts sheet tendered to court, one man — Craig John Smith of Darley Rd, Katoomba — was given the opportunity to gather his clothes and other possessions before he was taken in.
“Included in these were a small metal box he indicated contained his cigarettes. He was taken to the Katoomba Police Station where he was introduced to the custody manager. On searching his property the metal box was opened and it was found to contain a small amount of cannabis leaf,” the fact sheet read.
Smith was charged with possession of cannabis as well as with a number of supply charges.
Assistant Commissioner Denis Clifford, regional commander for north-western Sydney, told the Gazette the operation began last August after a tip-off from a member of the public.
“This started from a single piece of information, a call where someone alerted us that there was suspicious activity up there,” he said.
Strike Force Elrond was set up and on any given day as many as 30 surveillance police and investigators were monitoring the drug activities, Mr Clifford said.
He described finding the boy living in the Hill View Road house as: “extremely disappointing. Adults are suppose to protect kids from this kind of environment.”
He was very satisfied with the results of the operation “for two reasons. Firstly, because of the number of people identified and charged and also because we can send a message back to the community. Over the years there have been complaints and rumours about drug activity in the Blue Mountains and we’ve listened to people and now hopefully we have rid the Mountains of these people who have been dealing drugs up there.”
A resident of one of the streets where drug deals regularly occurred said the arrests had already made a great difference in the neighbourhood.
“We feel like a normal street for the first time in years — it’s heavenly,” the resident said, requesting anonymity.
Mr Clifford said he could not rule out further arrests and called for anyone with more information to call Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.
“This is how we work best, when we get the co-operation from the community. We take information provided to us very seriously and encourage the community to continue to come forward so we can continue the endeavour to make your area safer,” he said.
Some of those arrested were granted bail after appearances at Mt Druitt and Katoomba courts last week. Most will reappear at Katoomba on March 24.
Twelve arrested in drug raids
Those arrested were:
Hemi Atkinson, 33, of Katoomba St, Katoomba (also known as Hemitekupuamangu Watene). Four charges of supplying ecstasy. Two of supplying cocaine. One of supplying methylamphetamine. Two of supplying drugs on an ongoing basis.
Matthew James Barron, 36, of Darley St, Katoomba. Four charges of supplying heroin. Two of supplying ice. One of supplying cocaine. One of supplying Suboxone (a heroin dependency medication). Two of supplying prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis.
Adrian Paul Bidgood, 43, of Hill View Rd, Katoomba. Five charges of supplying ecstasy tablets. Two of supplying ecstasy powder. One of supplying cannabis. One of supplying drugs on an ongoing basis. One of possessing cannabis. One of possessing ecstasy tablets. One of possessing ecstasy powder. One of possessing LSD tabs. One of possessing cannabis seed. One of cultivating a prohibited plant. One of dealing with property suspected of being the proceeds of crime.
Michael Paul Binkins, 42, of Great Western Highway, Bullaburra. Five charges of supplying heroin. One of supplying methylamphetamine. One of supplying prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis.
Matbagan Cadiogan, 25, of Evans Lookout Rd, Blackheath. Two charges of supplying ice.
Luke Clark, 24, of Wellington St, Katoomba. One charge of supplying ice. Two of supplying cannabis.
Tallolah Ryan, 25 of Wellington St, Katoomba. Six charges of supplying methylamphetamines. One of supplying cannabis. One of possessing cannabis. One of supplying prohibited drugs on an ongoing basis. One of knowingly allowing premises to be used as drug premises and exposing a child to drugs.
Nerida Skuthorpe, 51, of Leichhardt St, Katoomba. Three charges of supplying cannabis.
Craig John Smith, 46, of Darley St, Katoomba. Three charges of supplying cocaine. Two of supplying ecstasy. One of supplying heroin. One of supplying drugs on an ongoing basis. One of possessing cannabis.
Peter Thompson, 54, of Leichhardt St, Katoomba. Eight charges of supplying cannabis.
Also, a 38-year-old man, of Echo Point Rd, Katoomba, and a 22-year-old woman, of Katoomba St, Katoomba, were each charged with two counts of supplying a prohibited drug.