A van driver who caused chaos after careering the wrong way down the Humber Bridge was later found to have a secret cargo of 76 mature cannabis plants hidden inside the vehicle.
Andrea Shani’s van was stopped after he was seen by eagle-eyed bridge authorities but he hastily fled to the nearby country park and was not arrested until months later. He had probably stolen the potentially lucrative plants from a house in a bid to “deter competition” and to make sure there were no rivals to his later planned dealing activities, Hull Crown Court heard.
The Humber Bridge authorities put paid to his money-making scheme after he made a mistake at the north bank roundabout and tried to drive southbound on the northbound tag lane. Shani, 23, admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and being concerned in producing cannabis on May 3 last year.
David Godfrey, prosecuting, said that a Ford Transit van registered to Shani was stopped on the Humber Bridge after he drove through the wrong tag lane and headed towards oncoming traffic. Judge Mark Bury said: “That takes a bit of doing. I am trying to work out how he could do that.”
Mr Godfrey said that it must have happened after Shani drove on the side of the road that he would have done in his native Albania and, at the Humber Bridge roundabout on the north bank, he must have turned into the lanes heading north off the bridge, rather than taking the southbound lanes.
Andrea Shani was caught with a cargo of hidden drugs after driving the wrong way onto the Humber Bridge (Image: Humberside Police)
“The authorities on the bridge had to intervene,” said Mr Godfrey. “The Humber Bridge authorities stopped him. He ran off. Within the van were 76 mature cannabis plants. An identification card belonging to the defendant was in the vehicle.
“Fingerprints belonging to the defendant were found inside the van. A mobile phone was recovered from the van also. That mobile phone had pictures of the defendant on it and pictures of cannabis plants and also pictures of fertilisers used in growing such plants.”
Shani had run off to the Humber Bridge Country Park area but he was later arrested in October. Messages on the phone suggested that he had knowledge of setting up cannabis grows and was someone who was called on because of his expertise.
Rachel Scott, mitigating, said that Shani pleaded guilty and made admissions. He had no previous convictions and had spent about six months in custody on remand, the equivalent of a one-year prison sentence.
Judge Bury told Shani: “You were driving a Ford Transit on the Humber Bridge the wrong way. Your van was stopped by the Humber Bridge authority and you escaped into the Humber Bridge Country Park, leaving behind in the van 76 mature cannabis plants and identification documents proving that you were the owner of the van.” Shani had originally been charged with burglary but the prosecution had “taken a generous view” and dropped that charge.
“It rather looks to me as if you had stolen that cannabis, found in your van, from that property in an effort to deter competition,” said Judge Bury. It seemed that Shani had an “ongoing concern with the growing of cannabis”.
Shani, of Shirehall Road, Sheffield, was jailed for one year but, because of the time he had spent in custody on remand, was likely to be released almost immediately.
“As far as this court is concerned, you have served your sentence,” said Judge Bury. “It may be that you are transferred to immigration detention following the conclusion of this sentence. You are eligible for detention under the provisions of the UK Borders Act.”
Shani was an “Albanian national with no right to be here”, said Judge Bury.