Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. File photo.
Ballina Byron Gateway Airport. File photo. Marc Stapelberg

Drug mule blames 'bikies' for massive ice bust

WHITE as a sheet, the woman was trembling uncontrollably as plainclothes detectives strode towards her in the airport terminal waving their IDs.

Her boyfriend was also visibly shaking, with drips of sweat starting to appear on his forehead.

It was a Sunday morning, April 30, 2017, at Ballina airport.

Police from the Richmond Target Action Group had arrived earlier that morning after receiving information about a suspected drug shipment.

Their suspects were the last two passengers to disembark Jetstar flight JQ456 from Sydney on to the Ballina airport tarmac. Police intercepted them as they entered the terminal.

The man, 38-year-old Kaja John Feakes, was no cleanskin. He had been convicted in 2006 and 2013 of serious drug offences and spent more than a year behind bars after his arrest in 2012.

The woman, 40-year-old Erin McMaster, was his partner.

The detectives asked Feakes if he had anything to declare. He paused for about 10 seconds, before saying he didn't wish to comment. McMaster said no, but the dread in her eyes said the opposite.

As she opened her handbag to dig out her ID, one officer noticed a capped syringe with a clear liquid standing out amongst other nondescript personal items.

She told police she didn't know what was in it nor how it got into her bag.

Police immediately searched her bag and found another suspect package inside a sanitary pad wrapped with black duct tape. It was a snap lock bag containing what they suspected was ice.

A female officer was then required to strip search McMaster and found a second sanitary pad attached to her groin which was removed and revealed another two bags of the drug.

When McMaster questioned again about the substance, she started to break down and cry, blaming "bikies" for forcing her to be a drug mule.

"I feel relieved, these people have been looking for us for ages I thought we were safe," she told police.

"They made me do it."

Feakes at first refused to make admissions about the drugs but conceded there was some stolen property at his rural property.

During a subsequent search of the Larnook home police found $45,700 in cash, and several guns and cars which weren't his.

A subsequent analysis of the substances revealed a whopping 276.5g of methylamphetamine - worth more than $80,000 on the street - and the pair were charged with commercial drug supply.

Feakes was also charged with dealing in the proceeds of crime and three counts of possessing an unauthorised firearm.

The pair later pleaded guilty to the crimes and were sentenced in the Lismore District Court late last month.

A pre-sentence report on Feakes revealed he had a history of drug abuse despite having a well paid job working as a fly in-fly out painter and blaster on mine sites in WA and Queensland.

The 39-year-old was sentenced to three and a half years in jail with a non-parole period of two years for his crimes.

The court was slightly more lenient with McMaster. She was handed a two year three months jail sentence with a 15-month non-parole period.

Taking into account time served, the 40-year-old will be released on parole on July 29 next year.

Feakes will be eligible to apply for parole on April 29 2019.

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