11/1988 Vernon Dill – Bermuda Optical, Church Street

10th November 1988

I received another call from the male who had telephoned yesterday morning. This person had been arrested with others for minor drug offences and wished to trade; his immunity from prosecution in exchange for providing us information about a supplier.

I informed him that, if the information resulted in a reasonable seizure we would consider proceeding with the matters against him by way of a ‘caution’ – nothing more than a verbal warning which would not be recorded anywhere. A ‘reasonable seizure’ in Bermuda terms would be a few grams of cocaine; sufficient to charge for possession with intent to supply.

This was acceptable to the caller and I was advised as follows:

  • Vernon Dill was employed by the Opticians on Church Street. Mr Dill supplied cocaine and would regularly carry around as many as 10 ‘halves’ of cocaine. These ‘halves’ were usually kept in a small pouch on his key fob.

A ‘half’ or ‘halve’ was a half gram and retailed for $125. The profits to be made selling cocaine are enormous, as has been identified at ‘Bermuda‘.

Mr Dill’s name meant nothing to me, but 10 halves of cocaine would be considered possession with intent to supply and a reasonable arrest, certainly better than the callers small possession charge. I again telephoned the officer who was dealing with he caller’s case (Danny) and confirmed he was content for me to pursue the matter … he was.

Having obtained a search warrant at the magistrates Court, in company with Rudi Richardson (Detective Constable) I entered the Bermuda Optical Co. and spoke with Patrick Gilfether (manager) of Paget.  We spoke briefly with Mr Gilfether in an office on the ground floor and confirmed Vernon Dill was present. We outlined the reason for our visit and were informed Mr Dill was working in the basement.

We went to the basement, in company with Mr Gilfether, where we met Vernon Eugene Dill of Northcliff Lane, Devonshire. Vernon was alone in the basement, in a small annex off to the left of where the stairs met the basement floor. Vernon was at a bench on which were a number of tools, a small area was clear and a plastic carrier bag was present.

I introduced DC Richardson and myself to Vernon and explained the purpose of our visit, displaying the search warrant and explaining we had also confirmed Mr Gilfether had no objection to our enquiry.

Vernon was agitated, nervous, looking about him and uttered some words of acknowledgement quickly. He immediately attempted to walk past myself and DC Richardson claiming he needed to use the bathroom, he wanted to go to the toilet. I prevented him from passing us by standing directly in front of him. Vernon attempted to walk around me and I explained that we would not keep him long, all being well and that we were going to conduct the search.

Vernon was insistent that he needed to use the toilet which was only a few feet from us. As Vernon attempted to walk past me I grabbed his arm and held him. His right fist was clenched tightly and I took hold of this and asked him what was in his hand. He replied that there was nothing. I asked him to open his hand and he refused stating that he wanted to use the bathroom.

I had my hand clasped over Vernon’s but he refused to open his.  I advised Vernon that if he reused to open his hand I would have mine taped over his and we would attend the polcie station in this fashion where his would be opened.  However, I was able to force  his hand open as Vernon relaxed his grip exposing a number of small cellophane ‘twists’ (halves) containing white powder. There were 10 of these and we sized them informing Vernon that he was under arrest.

I asked Vernon to collect his personal belongings and said that we would be taking him to Hamilton Police Station. Vernon did not want to take anything with him, he asked if he would get bail before the shop closed and we confirmed this was likely. Vernon wanted to leave immediately on the basis that the sooner we started, the sooner he would be back. I asked Vernon for the keys to his car and he said that they were not needed, he would walk back. I explained that we would be searching his car (based on the information I had received, I wished to see if there were any further ‘halves’ in the key fob). Vernon was keen to leave but we walked the few feet to the bench and he picked up his keys.

I asked Mr Gilfether if Vernon had a locker, a secure place or storage area where he could keep personal possessions whilst working. He did not. Before we left I informed Vernon that we would be searching his bench area and that he should watch, we would conduct the search in his presence. Again, Vernon wanted to leave advising that we had found all that he had.

The bench area was reasonably clean and tidy, with a clear area in front of which was the plastic carrier bag. I opened the bag and as a result of what was in this I informed Vernon that we would be taking him to the Narcotics department where the contents could be examined more carefully. Touching the contents as little as possible I displayed them to Vernon, Mr Gilfether and DC Richardson. There appeared to be about 100 twists, some powder cocaine and three large ‘rocks’ each cylindrical, almost an inch in diameter and about 2 to 3 inches long.

These rocks were about the shape and size of a shotgun cartridge – I susepcted that these had been imported by soemone who had either swallowed them or inserted them into their anus or vagina.

Dill arrest case # 8800027167
CRO 8803 Subject ID 5184 Civil 1272

Vernon was conveyed to the narcotics department. I returned to patrol.

Comment about DILL arrest:

The arrest of Vernon Dill resulted in the seizure of about 3ounces of cocaine. The drug was in three forms when seized:

  1. twists: these were made up ready for sale and totalled about 100, each with a street value of $125.
  2. ”cylinders’: these were about the size of a shotgun cartridge. They were not crack cocaine, as at first believed, they were compressed cocaine, the drug had been compacted to form tight pellets.
  3. powder: this was not the ‘light’ powder usually discovered, it did not have the same crystalline appearance. It transpired the powder was simply the broken down pellets.

It appeared Vernon had, that morning, taken possession of a ‘shipment’ and was in the process of converting the pellets to twists.

The arrest of Vernon was significant for a number of reasons:

  • This was the largest amount of cocaine (just over 3 ounces) seized with a prisoner during 1988. It was a prestigious arrest, notable and certainly one which would come to a lot of people’s attention both inside and outside the police service.
  • From my perspective, this was my third day on the narcotics department and my first arrest, coupled with this being a substantial seizure, the commencement to my appointment was going to be noted.
  • We had seized compressed cocaine. To my knowledge (supported by the comments made by the SOCO and Government Analyst) this had never before been encountered. It mattered not (at the time of arrest) whether we had been presented with crack or compacted cocaine. The importance was the presentation. Why would anyone wish to compact cocaine into these cylinder shapes?

Simply compacting the drug meant that it took up less space and this would be in any importers interests. However, there was not a substantial reduction in volume using this method and we were not thinking in terms of tons of the drug being imported at any one time. It took little to make substantial profits (see ‘cocaine‘) and there are any number of ways to hide drugs, with or without compacting it.

The answer appeared to be very straightforward: Bermuda had been targeted by those who knew a very basic weakness – we had no resources and operated on a hit and miss basis. Bermuda’s ‘International’ airport had (has?) no facility for dealing with ‘swallowers’ or ‘stuffers’; those who secrete carefully wrapped and sealed packets of narcotics in their bodies. ‘Swallowers’ would take the packages orally, ‘stuffers’ would insert the packets into their bodies via the anus or vagina.
Compacting cocaine into these ‘pellets’ made the drug easier to swallow or stuff.

I brought this to the attention of the O.I.C. Narco and submitted a report for the attention of the C.A.T. staff. This report, I subsequently learnt, did not leave the office. The intelligence was suppressed.

At the time of bringing my concerns to the O.I.C. Narcotics, I was informed that the information should be treated as confidential. I was told to consider the bigger picture and that the information should stay within the four walls of the Narcotics department.

Why? Because if it became public knowledge that narcotics were being imported in this manner it could lead to more people adopting the practice and Bermuda did not have the facility to handle this we did not have the resources or equipment to address the problem. Politically the subject was ‘sensitive’.

As the ‘new boy’ in the office it was not my place to disagree with policy. I objected to the stance on the basis that the only way to address the issue was to make the matter public. Furthermore, clearly there were those who imported using ‘internal secretion’ methods – were we simply going to let them continue?

The answer appeared to be ‘yes’ because there was nothing we could do, without the resources, to combat the problem. Absolutely nothing was done to address the situation, this was ‘unfortunate’. It was not the last time we were to see these ‘pellets’ another substantial dealer was later found with them in his possession (this will be dealt with at the appropriate date in the Diary) and clearly this was a major importation method with links between the parties employing these tactics.

As ever, the Narcotics department was content with the glory of the moment. So much for considering the larger picture!

My subsequent involvement in the Vernon Dill investigation did not progress beyond the arrest, the enquiry was effectively taken from me. There had been some other ‘street team’ activity that day; a car had been stopped not far from the Bermuda Optical Co and the occupants, believed to be narcotics importers, were searched with negative results. There was a suggestion the occupants were linked to Vernon but no one could prove this. Instead, a street team sergeant, Dennis Gordon, took it upon himself to team up with D.C. Richardson (who had accompanied me on the Vernon Dill arrest) and conduct the investigation of Vernon.

This too was unfortunate, the investigation did not progress. Dennis Gordon’ approach to investigation was similar to the manner in which he conducted himself in the narcotics office; he who shouts loudest wins. He was a a short, stocky West Indian who would often loose himself in his own arguments such was the speed with which his words were shouted; his brain appeared to have difficulty keeping up with his mouth. There was no subtlety about his character, it was established from his attempts at aggression and intimidation; he was a loud, verbose bully.

When relaxed Dennis could be a pleasant man to speak with but when he wanted his way, reasoning was ignored and it was best to let him rant from his tunnel-vision perspective. He was one of the ‘domino’ set who would gather in the PRC’s ‘West Indian section’ (there was a clear segregation) and play dominoes as though it were a martial art, or blood sport, crashing the pieces onto the table top as if attempting to stamp their pattern into its surface.

Vernon’s interview resulted in no further useful information, there was no evidence of substantial profits being hidden, no links to others associated with the importation and Vernon kept quiet. Having been caught ‘bang to rights’ with the drug it appeared Vernon had accepted his fate.

This was an interesting arrest. Such a seizure should have resulted in substantial enquiries being pursued to ascertain who else could be linked and whether there was more to be gained from associates, travel movements, telephone records etc. None of this was considered yet the arrest was and remained the largest seizure (with prisoner) all year. It was an opportunity wasted.

The arrest occurred at:

Bermuda Optical Co 12 Church St., City of Hamilton, Bermuda, HM 11
Phone: 441-295-6175
P.D. Gilfether, F.C. Optom, Optometrist