A former soldier was caught with a £1m heroin haul after turning to crime.

Gary Cowan, 32, was snared driving back to Scotland on the M74 near Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire in June 2020.

He was behind the wheel of a van belonging to garage boss John Craig, 31, who detectives had been keeping tabs on.

Both are now behind bars after they were each today convicted of being concerned in the supply of heroin following a trial at the High Court in Glasgow.

The ex-Royal Regiment of Scotland squaddie faces a lengthy jail-spell having survived an Army helicopter accident in Catterick Garrison, Yorkshire in 2007 in which a close friend was killed.

The tragedy ended his military career and left him needing multiple operations as well as counselling.

Cowan, of Paisley, Renfrewshire, and Craig, of Toryglen, Glasgow, will be sentenced next month.

Jurors heard how the eight kilogramme drug haul – some of which was of high purity – could fetch potentially in “excess” of £1m.

Cowan and Craig had denied knowing about the illegal consignment and effectively blamed each other.

Cowan claimed he had been asked to drive to Liverpool to collect car parts by Porsche-driving Craig, who runs a garage in Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

He said he met a man in Merseyside and left him for 10 or 15 minutes with the van.

As he later returned north, up to 10 officers and three police cars swooped on Cowan on the M74.

The ex-soldier was then arrested after the drugs haul was found hidden in the van.

His lawyer Billy Lavelle asked him: “What was your thoughts sitting in the cell?”

Cowan: “I sat there most of the day thinking: ‘What was happening?’. I was in shock.”

He initially lied to police that he had taken the van for a test-run to Manchester.

Mr Lavelle: “It will be suggested that you knew fine well what you were doing that day. What do you say?”

Cowan: “I was doing a job for John Craig picking up car parts for him.”

Craig also gave evidence and insisted Cowan – who he knew from a car enthusiasts club – had asked for a loan of his works van.

He claimed to only be aware of any issue when Cowan had not returned with the vehicle and his phone was then tracked to Motherwell police station in Lanarkshire.

His advocate George Gebbie put him: “Did you know about any drugs?”

Craig: “No.”

The court heard the heroin was found stashed in a padlocked compartment of the van.

But, Craig said he had bought the vehicle from a joiner, who had built the hide to stop his tools being stolen.

Cowan and Craig had been on bail, but both were remanded by judge Lord Armstrong.

As the pair were lead to the cells, police had to step in after female relatives of the duo yelled at each other in the courtroom.

Prosecutors have also moved for Craig to be hit with a Serious Crime Prevention Order – often described as a ‘super-Asbo’.

Cowan had previously spoken of his ordeal after escaping the helicopter crash 15 years ago.

He was only weeks into basic training at the time. His fellow soldier Sean Tait, 17, died. The pilot and a crewman were also killed.

Cowan said in 2017: “I blacked out and when I woke my whole left side was just wrecked.

“My left leg was twisted around the wrong way and I have a metal rod in it, my left hip has a bolt and elbow screws in it.

“When I was told I’d never have full use of my arm again, I burst into tears.”

In 2012, the helicopter’s co-pilot Robert Hamilton pled guilty to neglect in flying and was given a 16 month suspended sentence. He was left paraplegic by the smash.

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