Detective Inspector Cook from the NSW Police Force has seen hundreds of clandestine laboratories (‘clan labs’) in his time. As the Commander of the Drug Squad’s Chemical Operations Team, Cook’s officers have shut down more than 250 clan labs across NSW since the beginning of 2013. This year alone, they have located and closed 41.
With more than 30 years of policing experience, Cook is not easily shocked, but he is regularly dismayed by the mindless idiocy of drug manufacturers.
Cook said of all the clan labs he has seen, those operating in homes where innocent children lived were the most disturbing.
“On average, we shut down two labs a week,” Cook said.
“We see labs of all sizes, set up in all sorts of settings, but those erected in homes where kids are living are particularly concerning.”
Back in November 2011, police received information that a group of outlaw motorcycle gang members had their hands on a large quantity of chemicals and were using them to cook ‘Ice’ and other amphetamine-type substances.
Police immediately followed up the information and detectives’ inquiries led them to a home in Sydney’s north-west, which was being rented by a family with young children.
The Drug Squad formed Strike Force Domville to investigate the matter and undertook surveillance of the home. During this surveillance, officers saw members of the family, including the children, regularly coming and going from a combined garage and granny flat which sat on the property.
Concerned about what was taking place inside the granny flat, detectives executed a search warrant at the property in December 2011.
Inside the granny flat, officers discovered an active clandestine laboratory, filled with large quantities of poisonous chemicals, contaminated waste and filthy chemistry equipment. Much of this equipment was located on the floor or in cupboards easily accessible to the young children.
Just outside the door to the granny flat, kids’ toys were found scattered along the balcony floor. A few short steps away, young children were found playing inside the house, mere metres from the highly combustible, toxic drug lab.
Forensic experts from the Drug Squad’s Chemical Operations Team estimated that multiple kilograms of Ice had been manufactured in the laboratory over an extended period of time.
Drug Squad detectives subsequently arrested and charged the children’s father with manufacturing a large commercial quantity of prohibited drugs in the presence of children. In May 2014, following a lengthy court case, a magistrate sentenced him to 14 years imprisonment. A second man, who had been involved in the manufacture of prohibited drugs at the site, was sentenced to 8 years in jail.
The owners of the property were shocked by the news their tenants – a seemingly regular suburban family – had converted a section of the home into a clan lab. The owners enlisted environmental hygienists to prepare a report setting out the degree of contamination to the property.
The report, costing in excess of $20,000 to prepare, recommended that the garage and granny flat be demolished and the ground soil in the immediate area be removed and replaced. The hygienists uncovered clear evidence that waste material from the drug manufacture process had been deposited over the granny flat balcony in large quantities, causing significant contamination to the property and the nearby environment.
Detective Inspector Cook said the case served as but one of many examples of the incredible disregard drug cooks showed for the wider community, their neighbours and even their families.
“Those who reap profit from the misery of others are driven almost exclusively by greed and self-interest,” Detective Inspector Cook said.
“They have no regard for those around them and will do whatever they can to extend the profit margins of their black-market enterprises.
“That’s why it is critical community members help us track these criminals down.
“If you have any suspicions whatsoever, about a property or people within your town or suburb, please do the right thing and contact Crime Stoppers.”