A TRAGIC spate of suicides and deaths sent a young Mackay man into a spiral of drug abuse, ending in him ferrying more than half a kilo of ice to clear drug debts.
Shaun Andrew Bridger, 21, pleaded guilty on Wednesday to transporting what Justice Ann Lyons called a "huge quantity of methylamphetamine”, and was sentenced to five years in jail, to be suspended after 12 months.
As his family wept in the gallery, the drug mule told the court from the dock he regretted what he had done "immensely”, and he was glad he was arrested and sent to court as it gave him a chance to 'sort his life out'.
Defence barrister Angus Edwards told Brisbane Supreme Court how last year the trained boilermaker was thrown into emotional chaos when two of his friends suicided and his best friend died in a toilet cubicle from an asthma attack.
He said Bridger tried to offer emotional support to his dead best friend's bereaved girlfriend but in grief she suicided too.
Mr Edwards said Bridger was a vulnerable young man who "fell into to a heap” and "fell into drugs”.
He hid his addiction from his supportive family, accruing a debt with a person police were targeting as part of a drug sting.
In an effort to pay down the debt to this person, whose phone police were tapping, he agreed to fly from Mackay to Newcastle, pick up 720g of drugs, and fly home with them.
Text messages of travel arrangements between the two alerted police to the plans.
Surveillance teams watched Bridger arrive off a flight from Mackay on August 24, stay overnight at a hotel in Brisbane and fly to Newcastle the next morning to pick up the drugs.
He collected the ice, strapped three packages of it to his chest and groin and boarded a plane back to Brisbane.
He was stopped by a drug detection dog at the Brisbane airport.
On searching him, police found nearly three quarters of a kilo of drugs with a purity of up to 73% that had been bought for $85,000 but had a street value of about $200,000.
The court heard he was aware of the gravity of his actions with police intercepting a conversation where he refused to drive the drugs back from Newcastle because if he crashed it would be "$85,000 and his life down the drain”.
The Crown noted he was a "very young man,” with a very limited criminal history who "quite astonishingly” agreed to be a willing courier for "an exceptionally large amount of drugs”.
Mr Edwards said Bridger had made extensive and excellent efforts to rehabilitate. He said Bridger had been cooperative with police, returned 16 negative urine tests for drugs and attended a range of counselling services and his offending was a result of tragic circumstances.
He said his submission was Bridger, who hopes to continue his boilermaking career on release, would never be in front of a court again.
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