Guilty plea over Anzac Day bust
HOTEL manager and budding wedding photographer Kristen Gardner has pleaded guilty to the commercial supply of cannabis – 120 kilograms – after the State Crime Command Drug Squad used GPS co-ordinates to track him down on Anzac Day 2009 working at his hidden bush crop.
Gardner, 33, of South Gundurimba, pleaded guilty in Lismore Local Court to the charge after being arrested on April 25 last year at the bushland crop site near Lionsville.
Defence lawyer Paul Smart said his client, the former manager of The Winsome Hotel, was pleading guilty to agreed Crown facts and his plea also took into account a charge of cultivating 900 cannabis plants on April 25, 2009.
Appearing by way of a court video link from jail, Gardner made his guilty plea and will be sentenced at Lismore District Court in June.
As part of Strike Force Kalba, a combined Richmond Local Area Command and State Crime Command operation, Gardner was put under surveillance after Queensland police discovered a huge cannabis operation on a rural property ‘Kinvarra’.
Gardner and other members of his family, including his father, were identified as chief suspects in the multi-million dollar cultivation of more than 150,000 cannabis plants, resulting in the seizure of 3.5 tonnes of dried cannabis.
Queensland Police have issued an arrest warrant for Gardner on that matter.
In the Lionsville cannabis haul, police first raided Gardner’s rural home outside of Lismore and seized a computer, video camera and a digital camera.
From his personal computer police obtained GPS co-ordinates that led them straight to his bushland crop 5km off White Beech Road, raiding the site in the early morning hours of Anzac Day last year.
Crown facts describe his defacto, Delilah Williams, as making diary entries stating to Kristen as being out bush ‘cropping’ and also refer to him as a ‘dope grower’.
The drug officers found Gardner’s green Kawasaki 250 motorbike in the bush before coming across a cleared area of ground with a tent and drying shed.
The crop site had been harvested, with six cannabis plants left standing, and police counted hundreds of cannabis plant stalks left in the ground.
Officers found in excess of 100kg of dried cannabis with cannabis leaf and stem sealed inside plastic bags or in foot-operated machine-sealed coffee bags that were wrapped in industrial strength cling-wrap.
A total of 57 bags were found containing cannabis and in the drying shed a large quantity of cannabis was found on a plastic sheet.
Images of the crop site were also found on digital camera compact flash cards owned by Gardner.
State Drug Crime Command officer in charge of the case, Detective Luke Ellem, stated Gardner for a bush crop site had used a sophisticated method of cultivation that included polypipe and pump access to a creek water supply with a sprinkler setup.
The drying shed used a commercial humidifier.
Gardner was arrested close to the site and had a hand-held GPS.
He has since acknowledged it was his intention to sell the cannabis parcels wholesale.