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NQ’s meth dealers and the battle to stop them

With historic amounts of the drug discovered being trafficked in Townsville and it’s surrounding communities in recent years, the capability of meth to harm residents can’t be overstated. “Dangerous drugs cause immense grief and destruction in families in the community,” Then Chief Superintendent Hanlon said following the discovery of a kilo of ice in luggage at a Townsville ferry terminal. Earlier, in 2017, two kilogrammes, or $2 million worth of meth in street value terms, was intercepted by police in Charters Towers.As addiction support services work to limit the harm inflicted on vulnerable communities, and police battle a vicious cycle in order to kerb the reach of drug suppliers, the usage of meth within the community continues to be a source of profit for some.FRONTLINE HELPERSTownsville Hospital and Health Service Mental Health Service Group’s medical director Dr Jason Lee said that usage rates in Townsville had been increasing in line with other communities around Australia. “The increase in the use of crystal methamphetamine ‘ice’ in Townsville is in line with the national trend,” Dr Lee said. According to statistics sourced from the 2019 National Drug Strategy Household Survey, 1.2 million Australians over the age of 14 had used ice at one point in there lives. The same survey found that while the increase in the rate of meth use had remained stable between 2016 and 2019, meth users were more frequent users than other illicit drug users who took cocaine or ecstasy. Among those who used the more common crystal form of meth, 29% of users operated on at least a weekly schedule. Prolonged ice usage came with an increased risk of health-related harms, as well as risk of psychosis and other mental illness. Dr Lee said the long term effects could include:Dental problemsOrgan damageAgitationMental health problems (including persistent psychotic symptoms)Exposure to blood borne viruses such as hepatitis B and C as well as HIVDangerous behaviour“People who use ice can and do recover,” Dr Lee said. “The Townsville HHS has several various programs in place to support people affected by drugs. People seeking help for drug withdrawal are encouraged to see their GP or call the Townsville ATODS team on 4433 9600.”BATTLING A VICIOUS CYCLE Northern Major and Organised Crime Squad officer in charge Detective Senior Sergeant Phil Watts said the use of meth was a serious issue in communities across the entire country and Townsville was ‘no exception’. “However, in my view Townsville is not affected any more than any other community of a similar size,” Sgt Watts said. “Methylamphetamine use creates significant community harm due to the behaviours and in particular the violence of those affected by this substance, and the QPS are working hard to target and prosecute those responsible for distributing this drug in our community.”Sgt Watts said that usage of the drug was a powerful motivator in other types of offending. “Unfortunately, those addicted to methylamphetamine will routinely commit offences outside pure drug offending, either while affected by the drug or in seeking funds to purchase it. “Combating drug seeking behaviour is key in minimising community harm and making Queensland safer.”Sgt Watts said that any and all information provided by the public, no matter how small, could be the final piece of the puzzle in identifying and disrupting a drug syndicate. “If any member of the community has any information at all in relation to the use, supply or trafficking of methylamphetamine in the community, I encourage them to report the matter to Police via Crime Stoppers on 1800 333 000.”CASE STUDIESFrom million-dollar drug empires based out of suburban Townsville homes, to casual users of the drug for a variety of reasons, meth has been a driving factor in the unravelling of countless lives across North Queensland. Below are some of the names and faces who have either profited from the drug’s destructive grip, or been consumed by it. LOVEBIRDS EMPIRE BREAKS-UP: David Robert Mann, 39, was jailed after the million dollar drug empire he built with his lover collapsed. Mann and his partner 26-year-old Ebony Jackson sold between 10 and 20 ounces of meth a week for about $6000 an ounce, according to crown prosecutor Scott Collins. “The turnover could have been anywhere between $550,000 and $1.4 million,” Mr Collins said. The pair used hidden compartments in vehicles, rented out Airbnbs and were only brought down through an extensive police operation. Suppliers who had made at least 10 delivering drugs into Townsville were arrested by police in Home Hill while transporting about 2kg of meth and 84 pounds of marijuana. Justice David North said the harm that the meth the pair trafficked had to be answered strongly. “The drug is highly addictive,” Mr North said. “Anecdotally (it) is associated with a lot of the domestic violence in the community.”Mann was sentenced to nine years custody with time he spent awaiting sentence considered time already served. Jackson is serving out a nine year sentence imposed in June 2021.SUPPLIER RAN ‘SOPHISTICATED’ OPERATION: Sarah Alyce Amery, 32, was jailed in February of 2022 following a covert police operation that uncovered her role in a North Queensland drug syndicate. Charged with six offences, the trafficker had supplied drugs to a customer base of 11 individuals, most of whom were users of the drug ice, and had even been tasked by her supplier with collecting unpaid debts on his behalf. Amery’s offending occurred between June and August 2019 and was carried out via encrypted messaging services, including Snapchat and Signal. The operation was described as ‘sophisticated’ by crown prosecutor Rana Aldas and involved three other distributors who worked for the same supplier. Amery’s offending stretched back as far as 2013, where she was caught possessing a small amount of meth. She will be eligible for parole in November 2022. PAROLEE TIPPED OFF SUPPLIER: Haylie Anne Von Bischoffshausen, 26, pleaded guilty to charges of possessing a dangerous drug in excess of two grams on April 6 after she was caught as part of a police investigation into the actions of meth dealer Andrew Shaun O’Brien, 37. Bischoffshausen and her partner Samuel David Brennan, had been hired by O’Brien to transport an ounce of meth from the Gold Coast to Townsville. Crown Prosecutor David Nardone said after being taken to the Ayr police station, Von Bischoffshausen “all but immediately” contacted O’Brien to let him know they had been caught.O’Brien was in November 2021 sentenced to three years jail, to serve six months, before being released with an operational period of four years.Von Bischoffshausen was sentenced to two-and-a-half years jail, wholly suspended for three years, and 15 months probation.TRAFFICKER PRICE HIKE: Talayla Shayne Greer, 29, pleaded guilty to four charges, including that of trafficking a dangerous drug, in April of 2022. Greer had been trafficking meth between December 2019 and September 2020 and had raised prices in response to the Covid pandemic curtailing supply lines. Defence barrister Dane Marley said his client had began taking the drug after encountering it at a party when she was 20-years-old. “Her meth use became more regular at 24 years old … (she) used it to treat boredom and the pain associated with a broken hand,” Mr Marley said.Greer was sentenced to three-and-a-half years jail, with a parole eligibility date set at December 6, 2022.

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