P lab next to cop shop

TALIA SHADWELL, PAUL EASTON AND BEN HEATHER
Last updated 05:00 08/03/2014

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Wellington

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A drugs raid by armed police on an upmarket Wellington apartment allegedly discovered a pot bubbling away on a stove.

The occupants had been living in the 13th-storey apartment in Chews Lane - just metres from the city's central police station - for months without raising suspicions among either the apartment's owner or other residents.

When police raided the apartment early yesterday morning, they were expecting a minor drugs bust, Detective Senior Sergeant Tim Leitch said.

"When staff got in there, they found three people. They've interrupted them in the process of cooking on the apartment stove.

"A pot with a substance was bubbling on the stove."

Meanwhile downstairs, a fourth person associated with the apartment tried to flee, and allegedly threw a package into a rubbish bin as he passed.

Inside the bin, police found methamphetamine, or P, with a street value of $28,000.

The discoveries happened so close to the central police station that officers were able to walk the arrested suspects across the road to the cells.

In the apartment, more than $10,000 in cash and 30 grams of methamphetamine, with an estimated street value of $30,000 to $40,000, were found, police said.

Four people appeared on drugs charges in the Wellington District Court yesterday afternoon.

The entire Chews Lane apartment complex was evacuated, forcing residents still in their dressing gowns on to the pavements. Surrounding streets were closed, amid fears the cooking could spark an explosion.

The tenants at 13D moved in late last year. Some apartments in the complex are advertised for rents of $1150 a week.

The tenants rented from Kieran and Maria O'Sullivan, who own several apartments in the complex as well as the Lower Hutt Pak 'n Save.

Mr O'Sullivan said he was told about a suspected P lab yesterday morning. "This is just awful, really upsetting for us, and we feel for the other owners."

He said the two tenants had come with strong references from a "trusted friend" who had known them for years.

He was still waiting to know what, if any, damage had been done to the apartment.

Building manager Justin Leonard said he had met the tenants several times and they had appeared polite and friendly.

"I would probably look at other people before I looked at them," he said.

The apartment had been inspected since the tenants moved in, and contractors washing the building had also passed through several times in the past few months. At no time had anyone smelt anything.

Mr Leitch said it was unlikely neighbours would notice any unusual smells. "I wouldn't think most people would have the experience of knowing what they are looking for."

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However, operating a drugs lab in a confined space, such as an apartment, would put all residents at serious risk.

"If there was an explosion, it has the potential to be quite bad. It is very dangerous."

He saw no irony in an alleged crime being conducted so close to a police station. The location was "brazen, but not surprising".

"It's not embarrassing. These sorts of things can happen anywhere, whether it's across the road from a police station or not."

- The Dominion Post

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