TWO men have been jailed for their part in a plot to smuggle £6 million worth of cocaine into the UK.

Mark Holmes, aged 46, from Merseyside, and John Blake, aged 48, from Ashton-In-Makerfield had been travelling through Derbyshire in a HGV when the lorry broke down.

Police came across the duo parked at the side of the road and spoke them. Suspecting they were carrying, the officers then arrested Holmes and Blake and seized their lorry.

On searching the HGV's cab police found a sophisticated encrypted mobile phone with a foreign SIM card.

The pair were then questioned by police, but denied any wrongdoing, and were released while a detailed search of the HGV was carried out.

During the search officers found a stash of cocaine with an estimated street value of £6 million.

The drugs had been hidden in a custom made compartment in the trailer's chassis, which was opened with an adapted allen key stowed in the lorry cab.

After the drugs were discovered an investigation was launched by Greater Manchester Police's Serious and Organised Crime Group which revealed Holmes and Blake's conspiracy involving numerous unusual business and travel arrangements.

Their enquires found that on September 4, 2018, Holmes had travelled to Bilbao in Spain via ferry with the HGV and remained in regular contact with Blake once in the Southern European country.

Two days later Blake then flew to Malaga and met up with Holmes before the duo returned to the UK through France on September 12.

After being released by police Holmes repeatedly asked officers for the return of his truck, and even made 20 such calls in a single day, despite the truck being unrepaired and undrivable.

Officer eventually agreed to return the truck to him and on September 24, 2018, Holmes attended GMP's vehicle compound and used a HGV recovery service to Knowsley, Merseyside ­— unknowingly followed by police.

He was later joined by a Ford C-Max, driven by another man and carrying Blake in the passenger seat.

The pair then began searching the lorry and were seen by officers entering the pallet compartment and removing metal plates to gain access to the hidden compartment.

As Holmes discovered the drugs were missing officers swooped in.

Holmes tried to make a last ditch attempt to escape but both men were arrested.

Today Holmes of Derbyshire Hill Rd, Merseyside was sentenced to 17 years in prison and Blake of Avon Road, Ashton-In-Makerfield was sentenced to 13 years and seven months for conspiracy to import Class A drugs.

Detective Inspector Lee Griffin, of GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: “It’s thanks to the hard work of all the officers in this case, along with numerous partner agencies, that these criminals have been stopped from deluging our streets with such a huge amount of drugs.

“Drugs destroy relationships, blight communities and wreck the lives not only of drug users but also of those people caught up in the illicit supply chains.

“Those who benefit from supplying illegal drugs to vulnerable people deserve no place in our society, and our community is a safer place with them behind bars.

“I hope this sentencing sends a clear message that we will pursue those persons who supply harmful drugs and we will go to great lengths to bring them to justice.”