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Grandmother, 78, escapes jail after pleading guilty to running public housing heroin ring

A grandmother caught supplying heroin inside water balloons from her public housing flat has escaped jail.

Barbara Blewden breathed a deep sigh of relief when it was explained to her a suspended six-month prison sentence meant she would not be locked up.

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The 78-year-old was also put on a six month good behaviour bond in the New South Wales District Court on Friday.

Barbara Blewden, 78, pleaded guilty to the deemed supply of amphetamine and knowingly taking part in the supply of a small quantity of heroin between February and March 2017

The amphetamine charge related to drugs Blewden told police were for her own use

The amphetamine charge related to drugs Blewden told police were for her own use

Her barrister Douglas Marr said of the heroin charges: 'Its seems that the supplies were very small amounts when one looks at the facts.'

Her barrister Douglas Marr said of the heroin charges: ‘Its seems that the supplies were very small amounts when one looks at the facts.’

Judge Kate Traill said Blewden had been ‘substantially involved in the trafficking of drugs’ from her flat at Surry Hills in Sydney’s inner city.

However the amounts of heroin she had supplied were ‘extremely small’ and her offending was at the lower end of the scale.

Due to her age, the unlikelihood of her reoffending and her cognitive state it would inappropriate to jail her, Judge Traill found. 

Blewden pleaded guilty to the deemed supply of amphetamine and knowingly taking part in the supply of a small quantity of heroin between February and March 2017.

The amphetamine charge related to drugs Blewden told police were for her own use. 

Blewden had begun taking amphetamines on weekends when she was about 60.

Mr Marr said Blewden had received a bond in 2007 for a drug matter but had no criminal convictions

Mr Marr said Blewden had received a bond in 2007 for a drug matter but had no criminal convictions

She was well-known for helping other elderly citizens and disadvantaged community members in the Northcott housing commission flats in Surry Hills, where she lived

She was well-known for helping other elderly citizens and disadvantaged community members in the Northcott housing commission flats in Surry Hills, where she lived

Her barrister Douglas Marr said of the heroin charges: ‘Its seems that the supplies were very small amounts when one looks at the facts.’

Mr Marr said Blewden had received a bond in 2007 for drug possession but had no criminal convictions. 

She was well-known for helping other elderly citizens and disadvantaged community members in the Northcott housing commission flats in Surry Hills, where she lived.

‘There is a lot of crime and violence associated with that place,’ Mr Marr told the court. 

The pensioner had made very limited profit from her minor role in the heroin ring and was in poor health. She was suffering early onset dementia and had heart disease.

Mr Marr said while Blewden pleaded guilty to the offences she had denied supplying drugs; she had a poor memory and 'it may be there is some confusion.'

Mr Marr said while Blewden pleaded guilty to the offences she had denied supplying drugs; she had a poor memory and ‘it may be there is some confusion.’

Blewden sits on her couch and explains how she felt when police raided her home

Blewden sits on her couch and explains how she felt when police raided her home

Mr Marr said while Blewden pleaded guilty to the offences she had denied supplying drugs; she had a poor memory and ‘it may be there is some confusion.’

In November 2016 Kings Cross detectives began an investigation into the distribution of heroin in Sydney’s inner-city and identified Joanna Weber as a regular supplier of small quantities of that drug. 

Weber, who lived in Albury on the New South Wales-Victoria border, was in a de facto relationship with Rodney Minogue, who also lived in Albury. 

The great-grandmother is pictured here with some of the teddies in her bedroom

The great-grandmother is pictured here with some of the teddies in her bedroom

Minogue had been a suspect in the 1986 bombing of the Russell Street police headquarters in Melbourne that killed police constable Angela Taylor and injured 21 others.

He was acquitted on appeal of being an accessory to that crime, while his older brother Craig Minogue was sentenced to life in prison for his role in the explosion.

Weber flew to Sydney each week to supply members of her syndicate with heroin and when in Albury arranged for several underlings including Blewden to provide small quantities of the drug to customers on her behalf. 

Blewden was given water balloons containing 0.125 grams and 0.0625 grams of heroin which were collected by Weber’s customers. The larger quantity was sold for $100 and the smaller for $50.

Blewden was given water balloons containing 0.125 grams and 0.0625 grams of heroin which were collected by Weber's customers

Blewden was given water balloons containing 0.125 grams and 0.0625 grams of heroin which were collected by Weber’s customers

he larger quantity was sold for $100 and the smaller for $50

he larger quantity was sold for $100 and the smaller for $50

Weber sometimes referred to Blewden as 'the old manageress' of her operation

Weber sometimes referred to Blewden as ‘the old manageress’ of her operation

Weber sometimes referred to Blewden as ‘the old manageress’ of her operation. 

Police searched Blewden’s home on March 29 last year and found 10.84 grams of amphetamine in small resealable plastic bags inside cigarette packets.

They also found 21.56 grams of glucose powder and 3.26 grams of an unidentified white powder, as well as two packets of water ballooons which Blewden said she kept for her grandchildren.

Blewden told detectives Weber and Minogue, both of whom she had known for years, had been staying with her in Sydney on occasion when they came up from Albury. 

Police searched Blewden's home on March 29 last year and found 10.84 grams of amphetamine in small resealable plastic bags inside cigarette packets

Police searched Blewden’s home on March 29 last year and found 10.84 grams of amphetamine in small resealable plastic bags inside cigarette packets

Blewden told detectives Weber and Minogue, both of whom she had known for years, had been staying with her in Sydney on occasion when they came up from Albury

Blewden told detectives Weber and Minogue, both of whom she had known for years, had been staying with her in Sydney on occasion when they came up from Albury

She said the 10.84 grams of white powder they had located was ‘goey, speed’ which she had bought for her own consumption from a man at the Botany Hotel for $80 some months earlier then forgotten about. 

Minogue was previously sentenced to a minimum five months’ jail for his part in the syndicate and other members received bonds.

Weber, 52, was sentenced to two years and one month in jail for her role as mastermind of the syndicate, with a non-parole period of one year and two months.

She will be released on Monday. 

Blewden told Daily Mail Australia shortly after her arrest last year she had been terrified when police arrived at her door on the morning they raided her home. 

‘It was just before nine o’clock when I decided to go down to the shops but when I opened the door police in big jackets and helmets started yelling at me,’ she said.

‘It was very frightening, I just opened the door then six of them dressed like Ninja Turtles and with guns came in the door shouting at me to sit down and stay still.

Blewden told Daily Mail Australia shortly after her arrest last year she had been terrified when police arrived at her door on the morning they raided her home

Blewden told Daily Mail Australia shortly after her arrest last year she had been terrified when police arrived at her door on the morning they raided her home

‘I didn’t know what was going on they were all just shouting.

‘They made a mess and went through everything and took me to the police station where I had to sit in a cell for five hours. It was so cold.’ 

Blewden denied any wrongdoing and said: ‘I’m not a criminal.’

The New-Zealand woman was petrified of going to jail and leaving the flat she shared with her son and cat Meg.

‘I’m so scared of jail and scared they might make me go back to New Zealand I haven’t been there in over 50 years, I don’t know anyone,’ she said. 

Her daughter Lisa said: ‘People are always taking advantage of mum’s kindness, she would do anything for anyone.’

'It was just before nine o'clock when I decided to go down to the shops but when I opened the door police in big jackets and helmets started yelling at me,' she said

‘It was just before nine o’clock when I decided to go down to the shops but when I opened the door police in big jackets and helmets started yelling at me,’ she said

 

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