AN elderly gardener was hauled before the courts after he took almost £20,000 worth of amphetamine into his home - thinking it was plant food.
Pensioner Bryan Routledge found a plastic bag in his garden in April 2011 and thought the white powder inside was trench food for his plants that must have been dropped off by one of his allotment friends.
But Newcastle Crown Court heard the substance inside the supermarket carrier bag was 1.9kg of amphetamine with a street value of over £19,950.
The pensioner, who turned 75 today and has never been in trouble before, was charged with being a drug dealer and spent almost two years with the finger of suspicion pointing at him.
He was due to be tried by a jury today.
But before a jury was sworn prosecutors dropped the case against him after hearing his health has deteriorated significantly over the last two years.
Prosecutor Emma Dowling told the court: “Having taken everything into account, including the seriousness of the allegation but also the defendant’s health, the prosecution take the view it would not be in the public interest to have a trial in relation to this matter.”
Mr Recorder Philip Engelman ordered a not guilty verdict be entered against the charge of possessing a controlled drug with intent to supply which Mr Routledge, of Beechwood Crescent, Sunderland, had faced.
The judge Mr Routledge, who was allowed to sit next to his solicitor rather than enter the dock: “As you have heard, the prosecution have decided not to proceed against you so there is no need for any trial and you are free to go.
“Please do avoid having any more bags of trench food in your possession.”
Mr Routledge did not comment during the hearing.
His barrister Glen Gatland told the court: “I can only say this has made Mr Routledge a very happy man on his 75th birthday.”
Mr Routledge had noticed the carrier bag in his garden a few days before he decided to take it into his house because it was raining.
The retired joiner, who has an allotment, believed it was plant food or fertilizer that had been dropped off for him by one of his gardening pals.
The drug stash was left, still in the carrier bag he found it in, next to the back door in Mr Routledge’s kitchen, where the police found it.