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Drug-runner leaves hidden clue to £10m pot of gold

Daniel McGrory, The Times, 16th May 2005

A NOTORIOUS drug smuggler has left clues after his death to where he stashed £10 million of cannabis.

The missing drugs were allegedly dumped in shallow waters off the Azores. Police fear that rival drugs gangs who worked with Roddy “Popeye” McLean could engage in a high-seas battle to reach the cannabis, which he claimed to have sealed in watertight containers.

The 60-year-old former mercenary, alleged to have been an MI5 informer, died in mysterious circumstances shortly after leaving cryptic pointers to his ill-gotten gains abandoned in the Atlantic.

The hunt is likely to be the underworld version of the treasure trail set in 1979 in the book Masquerade by the craftsman Kit Williams, who buried a jewel-encrusted golden hare in the English countryside.

Thousands took part in the search but it took two years for a reader to uncover the 18-carat hare hidden beneath a stone cross in Ampthill, Bedfordshire.

Customs investigators, who are trying to retrieve McLean’s fortune, want to question gang members about his reported overseas properties, offshore accounts and this alleged stash.

McLean’s nephew, Wayne Thallon, has written Cut-Throat, an account of McLean’s life and crimes which reportedly includes the clue.

Mr Thallon, 30, insists that he does not know the location, “so police, Customs, my uncle’s former associates and treasure hunters are wasting their time with me, though he deliberately planted a clue. Some may think it’s a stunt to sell the book, but I believe him when he says the location can be found. But I don’t want anyone shooting the messenger. I won’t be looking for it.”

In March 1996 McLean was sailing back to Spain with the drugs packed in plastic containers on his new boat, the Dansk. His plan was to throw the cannabis overboard and sail back to the port of Huelva and let Spanish Customs give the boat a clean bill of health. No crew knew where he dumped the drugs except that it was close to shore. McLean intended to return a week later with a diver and retrieve the stash.

He was foiled when the Dansk caught fire. Before he had a chance to go back for the cannabis McLean was arrested by British Customs during a chase off the coast of Scotland in which an agent was killed.

McLean was sentenced to 28 years, but five years later escaped from an open prison, allegedly with the help of MI5, and was found dead in a South London hostel soon afterwards.

In the book McLean is reported as saying: “Remember my treasure . . ? Well, it’s still there and I’m the only bugger who knows where it is, although I can’t ever touch it. So I’m giving it you. Find it with the help of a wee clue and you’ll have three tonnes of Morocco’s finest perfectly preserved.”

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