Surrey man found guilty of possessing drugs for trafficking after leaving brown paper bag on back seat of taxi

An RCMP handgun was found when police searched a house in Whalley

B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster

B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster

NEW WESTMINSTER — A Surrey man has been found guilty of possessing heroin, methamphetamine and Gamma-Hydroxybutrate (GHB) for the purpose of trafficking after leaving a brown paper bag containing drugs on the back seat of a taxi cab.

Mark David McGrath was also found guilty of possessing a Stiletto knife and a taser. He will be sentenced on April 7, in B.C. Supreme Court in New Westminster.

Justice Jeanne Watchuk presided over the case.

An RCMP handgun was also found when police searched a house in Whalley but the judge found McGrath not guilty of possessing that weapon.

The Surrey RCMP Drug Unit had McGrath under surveillance and the information they gathered suggested he lived at a house on 144 Street and had been at an apartment on Whalley Blvd.

Police began their investigation on Nov. 21, 2014. On Dec. 18, officer saw McGrath leave the apartment in a cab, carrying a brown bag. The taxi dropped him off at the house. He didn’t have the bag with him, and as the cab left he was seen trying to wave it down, presumably to come back.

Police pulled the cab over, found the bag in the back seat, searched it and found nearly 300 grams of crystal methamphetamine and 60 grams of heroin in pebble form. They arrested McGrath for possession for the purpose of drug trafficking.

Armed with warrants, the police then searched the house on 144th as well as the apartment and found weapons and drugs in the house, namely a Smith & Wesson Model 5946 semi-automatic pistol 9mm Luger calibre, and two 9mm cartridges and a cartridge magazine inside a purse in a bedroom. Roughly 1.5 litres of GHB was found in a detergent container in the fridge freezer in the house, where Watchuk was one of multiple tenants.

“On the handgun, the RCMP emblem was partially defaced but still recognizable,” Watchuk  observed, noting  “unauthorized possession of an RCMP handgun is in and of itself an offence in Canada.”

A hard plastic Stiletto knife and taser were also found in the bedroom. A cross-bow was on a sofa, the Stilletto knife was hanging from a chair, nunchucks and a machete were found in a closet along with brass knuckles and ceremonial dagger. The purse was a Kenneth Cole brand black leather shoulder purse and Watchuk concluded it could have been used by either a man or woman.

McGrath’s defence counsel argued that the Crown’s case was entirely circumstantial, and the judge agreed. She noted in her reasons for judgment that there was no direct evidence of possession in the case, fingerprint and DNA tests done on the handgun came up negative, and there was no direct witness evidence.

Watchuk said she was not able to find beyond a reasonable doubt that McGrath had “constructive or joint possession” of the handgun, ammunition or the cartridge magazine. “I therefore have a reasonable doubt that Mr. McGrath was in possession of the RCMP issued handgun, the ammunition and the magazine,” the judge decided. “I find you, Mr. McGrath, on those counts, not guilty.”

Two other people were named in the charges on the indictment but were found not guilty following a ruling that excluded evidence found in the apartment.

tom.zytaruk@thenownewspaper.com