South East Wales

Wendy Thomas jailed for people smuggling to UK

Wendy Thomas Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Wendy Thomas hid two women and a man in a car she tried to drive into the UK

A woman who hid three people in a car and tried to drive them into the UK has been jailed for people smuggling.

The Home Office said officers discovered the stowaways after stopping Wendy Thomas' car at the Eurotunnel terminal in France on 9 October 2016.

Two of them were unresponsive and were rushed to hospital.

Thomas, 50, of Cardiff, admitted assisting illegal immigration and was sentenced to 33 months at Blackfriars Crown Court.

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption The man was found under a duvet in the car's foot well
Image copyright Home Office
Image caption The two women were taken to hospital after being found unresponsive

Two women were found inside a large black holdall in the boot of Thomas' car and had been covered by pillows and a large soft toy.

The third passenger, a man who later claimed to be an Iranian national and was handed to the French authorities, was found hiding under cushions and a quilt in the rear foot wells.

Thomas' co-conspirators Adriano Bettoja-Allen, 37, and his wife Jeanette, 49, of Newport, were also sentenced for their parts in two separate "carefully planned" attempts to smuggle people into the UK.

The Home Office said investigations started following the arrest of Dawood Shahbeik at St Pancras International station, after he arrived on the Eurostar from Calais on 2 October 2016.

Text messages on his mobile phone referred to a person who had been taken to a house in Newport, while a search of his luggage revealed a damaged Iranian passport and a large amount of cash.

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption The pillows and large toy used to hide the three stowaways

Thomas was arrested a week after Shahbeik and text messages on both their phones showed they had been in regular contact with Adriano Bettoja-Allen.

Investigators found he and his wife had travelled through Calais on 2 October after meeting Shahbeik in Dunkirk.

They also found Thomas and Bettoja-Allen had travelled in separate vehicles from Folkestone, Kent, to Coquelles, France, on the same Eurotunnel train on 8 October.

Adriano Bettoja-Allen returned to the UK less than two hours after Thomas had been stopped by Border Force officers and financial checks also uncovered a large deposit into Thomas' bank account in September 2016.

Image copyright Home Office
Image caption Adriano Bettoja-Allen was jailed for five years for his part in the smuggling operation

Adriano Bettoja-Allen admitted assisting illegal immigration and was sentenced to five years in prison.

Jeanette Bettoja-Allen pleaded guilty to the same charge and was sentenced to 11 months, suspended for two years.

Shahbeik, who also admitted the same charge, was sentenced to 18 months in prison at an earlier hearing.

Speaking after the case concluded, David Fairclough, assistant director from Immigration Enforcement's Criminal and Financial Investigation team, said: "Adriano Bettoja-Allen was revealed by our investigations to be the common link between what initially appeared to be unconnected incidents.

"Our investigations showed that far from being opportunistic attempts to undermine the UK's border controls, the offences had been carefully planned.

"The fact that two women ended up in hospital demonstrates the dangerous lengths people smugglers will go to."