AN Army reservist who had mounting debts was found with up to £176,000 of cocaine that he says he was pressured to collect.

Louis Wood was acting as a courier for a “large scale” drug operation when his Audi was stopped by police on the southbound junction 9 slip road, for Winchester, on the M3 on April 19.

The 32-year-old Amport resident was taken to a nearby car park so a search could be carried out and Wood admitted to having a package in his car, Winchester Crown Court was told today (Friday).

Prosecutor Mark Gadsden said that Wood told police: “'I’ve just been to pick up a package, but I’ve got no idea what the contents is'. He said at that time 'I just go to the address, I’ve got no job, I’ve got children to pay for. I just go to the destination, I drive'.”

Mr Gadsden said that Wood’s initial account was “plainly incorrect” after he pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of a Class A drug.

Wood told police that there was a Sainsbury’s carrier bag in the passenger footwell of the car, officers found that it contained four one kilogram bags of cocaine. A tin containing £4,420 was also discovered, along with a mobile phone.

Mr Gadsden told the court that the cocaine was 70 per cent purity, and worth between £92,000 and £176,000.

Wood told the Probation Service that he "put under pressure to deliver the drugs". He also said that he had previously been paid £125 to deliver items but on this trip he was expected to get £500.

In mitigation, Khalid Missouri said that between 2016 and 2019 Wood was involved in family court proceedings and was eventually given full access to his two sons, however he ran up a debt of £84,000 fighting the case.

Mr Missouri said that his client had worked as a head chef at Worthy Down Barracks and was an Army reservist. He was then headhunted by another company but during the Covid pandemic was “left out of work and then was furloughed and [then] made redundant”.

The court heard that Wood was “virtually homeless”, had debts of around £14,500 and going through a “prolonged depressive episode” at the time of the offence.

Judge Jane Miller QC jailed Wood, of Monxton Road, Amport, for four and half years.

A further charge of possession with intent to supply a Class A drug will lie on file.