Drug charge Hibs star “misspelled false name then ran”

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HIBS star Gary O’Connor gave a false name to police who questioned him over drugs but misspelled it and then ran away, a court heard today.

An officer told Edinburgh Sheriff Court he saw O’Connor holding a piece of paper to his nose in the back of a white Land Rover in Edinburgh city centre on 14 May last year.

O’Connor allegedly gave police the false name “Johnston” when questioned.

But after beginning to spell the name out as “J…O…S”, O’Connor ran off, the court heard.

The striker was eventually caught after he ran about 300 meters from the officers, and was found shaking and “out of breath,” an officer told the court.

The 29-year-old Hibs player is charged with possessing cocaine in three different locations in Edinburgh and obstructing police.

His defence agent, Liam O’Donnell, said his client was unlawfully arrested and told the court the evidence against him cannot be led.

Police Constable Andrew Morrow, 34, said had been on patrol in George Street in the capital on the night of 14 May 2011.

He said he saw a man holding a rolled up piece of paper to his nose in the back of a white Land Rover.

The police officer said: “There were four persons in the vehicle. A male was putting a piece of paper towards his nose.”

The officer then opened the door to the Land Rover, which was parked in Hope Street Lane.

He said: “At that time I believed the male was snorting cocaine or something along those lines.”

The man, whom he identified as O’Connor, appeared “nervous and distracted,” he said.

Constable Morrow said he saw a bag containing white powder and a rolled up £20 note in the middle of the back seat of the car.

After speaking to another man in the car, he then chased O’Connor a distance of around 300 meters towards Rose Street.

The Hibs player was stopped by another police officer.

“He was very nervous looking, he was out of breath, he appeared to be shaking.”

Another officer, Constable Katherine Eager, had spoken to O’Connor while he was sitting in the Land Rover.

False

She said O’Connor initially tried to give a false name, but fled after spelling it wrong.

When fiscal depute Ian Wallace asked Constable Eager what the footballer initially said his name was, she said he gave the name “Johnstone.”

She continued: “I asked him how it was spelt, he replied J…O…S, then didn’t finish.

“I asked: ‘come on what’s really your surname?’”

“At that point he pushed past me and said ‘got to take a p***.’”

She added: “I could smell alcohol on his breath.”

The two officers then gave chase, and found a bag containing a white powder when they searched O’Connor’s trouser pocket.

O’Connor is said by police to have said words to the effect “that was put there” when officers found the bag.

The footballer was arrested and taken to St. Leonard’s police station, where another bag of white powder was found in another trouser pocket.

Searched

He was strip searched, and subsequent tests showed the bags taken from O’Connor contained cocaine, the police officers said.

Mr Wallace asked Constable Eager: “The items tested negative initially, but ultimately tested positive for cocaine?”

She replied: “Yes.”

O’Connor’s defence agent, Liam O’Donnell, said his client’s arrest was unlawful as police had not detained him before he ran away.

The evidence against the 29-year-old could, therefore, not be led, he argued.

“He had every right to run away,” Mr O’Donnell said.

He said: “He was neither detained nor arrested under any of the available powers and as such he was entitled to run away.

“He was under no compulsion to stay with the officers.”

He continued: “If he’s arrested for something he’s entitled to do then it was unlawful and cannot be admitted.”

The case, before Sheriff Derek McIntyre, is due to continue later this week.

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