THIS WEEK IN 1988: Out of time in search for arms and drugs

A dockyard mobile crane unloads the cargo of cement from the coaster at Flathouse Quay, Portsmouth
A dockyard mobile crane unloads the cargo of cement from the coaster at Flathouse Quay, Portsmouth

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Customs officers in Portsmouth searching a coaster involved in a cross-Channel chase drama were racing against the clock as a court order, allowing police to hold the ship’s six-man Dutch crew, neared expiry.

Magistrates in Southampton granted police permission to hold the crew for questioning for a further 24 hours as investigators using sniffer dogs searched for suspected drugs or arms on the 700-ton ship.

A customs spokeswoman in Southampton said the order was due to expire.

She added that the search of the Cypriot-registered coaster – which was brought to Portsmouth after a dramatic 24-hour cross-Channel chase by customs vessels and the Royal Navy – was continuing.

The captain and crew of the vessel had left Portsmouth Central police station, and were being questioned at Southampton Central police station.

Tony Di Fonzo, the controller of the customs marine branch at Gunwharf, Portsmouth, said: ‘We are working closely with our Dutch colleagues, and intelligence sources lead us to believe that the ship could have drugs or arms concealed.’