Firm Cuts raid stumbles on crystal meth factory in Finsbury Park
£14,000 drugs discovered at potentially-explosive laboratory in bedsit behind barber shop
IT LOOKED like a retro barber shop, but what lay behind its doors was something sinister, in fact “exceptionally evil” according to a crown court judge.
As police investigating complaints about a cannabis café raided Firm Cuts barbers in Finsbury Park, they had no idea that inches away, in a bedsit behind the shop, chemistry-obsessed Freddie King was harbouring a crystal meth factory with potentially explosive consequences.
Whether it was luck or just thorough police work is not clear, but officers securing the scene following the raid on the Seven Sisters Road hairdressers on November 19, 2008, smashed through a partition wall and uncovered a garage that served as Mr King’s bedsit, office and crystal meth factory.
Inside were huge amounts of glassware, heaters and crystal meth powder in a freezer. Next to a set of electronic scales were packets of gelatine capsules ready to be filled.
A computer was packed with recipes – a cookbook for illegal drugs – based on the work of Californian pharmacology professor Alexander Shulgin, known to some as the Godfather of Ecstasy. It was described by Islington Police Detective Chief Inspector Simon Laurence as “an Encyclopaedia Britannica on how to make drugs”.
Mr King, 49, a man of previous good character, was jailed for four years at Blackfriars Crown Court on Friday after pleading guilty to producing crystal meth and psychedelic drug 2C-B – the quantities recovered had a street value of £14,000 – and possession of PCP, known as Angel Dust, and methoxyamphetamine.
His laboratory was uncovered when officers from Finsbury Park Safer Neighbourhoods team, led by Sergeant Chris Walsh, raided the barber shop after complaints about cannabis from residents.
Judge John Hillen said: “This did not fall into the kitchen laboratory category... but was much more sophisticated than that. Freddie King had the capacity to make four separate Class A drugs.”
The judge said: “Given the effects of crystal meth and its highly addictive nature, I find production of that drug for distribution exceptionally evil.”
Judge Hillen described Mr King as “eccentric” with “unusual sexual interests”. He rejected Mr King’s defence that he was motivated by intellectual curiosity and that the drugs were for self-medication, to deal with depression.
He had previously told the court he did not want to go to street dealers because of the quality of Class A drugs and so developed them himself.
Defending, Marcus Waite said the vast majority of Mr King’s life was defined by “law abiding industriousness”, which had been “marked by considerable misfortune”, having twice lost his home and been abandoned twice by his partner. “That’s taken a toll,” he added.
Mr King suffered from mild to moderate mental health problems and had once tried to end his life. Sentencing him, Judge Hillen said: “Class A drugs are wicked substances... They cause misery, they can cause death.”
Speaking after sentencing, Detective Constable Gethin Roberts said: “The major concern is the danger to the community. Without the technical knowhow, there is a high possibility of fire or explosion. The gases produced may be poisonous, causing death or injury if inhaled. For every pound of crystal meth produced, five pounds of toxic waste are made.”
Det Chief Insp Laurence said: “There’s not a specific problem with crystal meth in Islington and this is an isolated case. King’s sentence sends out a clear message that it will not be tolerated here.”
The barber shop raid resulted in a 48-year-old man being arrested and charged with intent to supply cannabis. He was later released without any further action being taken.
From biofuels to drugs
HOW did a man with one A-level in chemistry and no previous criminal record end up making crystal meth in his bedsit?
Freddie King ran a motor business in Seven Sisters Road. He had previously had no trouble with police and was seen as a man of good character.
Twice divorced and twice declared bankrupt, he had suffered from depression and had begun to visit nightclubs, drinking to excess and taking ecstasy and LSD, the court heard. His parents, who attended court, handed in a letter to the judge explaining the pressures Mr King was under – his father was suffering from cancer.
Mr King’s only science qualification was an A-level in chemistry. But Judge Hillen said: “He has a recently revived interest in chemistry and chemical production, which he used legitimately to produce biofuels and unlawfully to produce prohibited drugs of Class A.” This was aided by the internet.
Police found hundreds of pages on Mr King’s computer detailing how to make chemical concoctions. Many were related to Dr Alexander Shulgin’s book Pihkal – Phenethylamines I Have Known and Loved – which has instructions for more than 200 psychedelic compounds.
Published: 29 January 2010
by RÓISÍN GADELRAB