A CANNABIS courier used cheap air fresheners and coffee granules to mask the smell of a 10kg criminal consignment hidden in a secret car compartment.

Cherno Bah, 43, was caught out while travelling northbound on the M6 near Carlisle on February 4 amid tight lockdown restrictions which prevented all but essential travel.

A police patrol stopped his Volkswagen Passat close to Southwaite at 3-35pm.

Officers detected both the smell of “extremely cheap air fresheners”, Carlisle Crown Court heard, but overpowering even that was a strong cannabis odour.

An initial search yielded only £590 cash. “He and the vehicle were taken to Carlisle police station and there, in a secret chamber behind the back seats, was found a significant quality of cannabis,” said prosecutor Tim Evans.

“Ten kilos of female flowering plants valued by an expert police officer at £100,000.

“The void behind the back seats had been specially constructed. It was not easy to access even by the police and, when they managed to do so, they found yet more attempts to disguise the overwhelming smell of cannabis.

“The boot and the void were sprinkled with coffee granules.”

Numberplate recognition cameras showed the car had made nine 11-hour round trips between Scotland and the West Midlands.

Some £10,000 cash was recovered from Bah’s home and a phone was also taken from him. It contained a telling voice note referring to a car breakdown and recovery vehicle request.

This note, said Mr Evans, showed “panic” about the potential arrival of the RAC; and “desperate attempts” to get rid of what he described as “food” before it arrived.

Bah initially sought to claim his trips were made because he and a business partner were involved in importing food from The Gambia.

However, Bah, of Maryhill Road, Glasgow, later admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply, and supplying the class B drug between December 1 and February 4.

Recorder Andrew Nuttall heard the former taxi driver had got into desperate financial straits after his marriage broke down. Concluding that more than 40kg could have been transported during the illegal journeys, Recorder Nuttall jailed Bah for 39 months.