September 17 2014 Latest news:
Ben Bloom , Reporter
Friday, May 25, 2012
A Maida Vale pensioner was the “innocent victim” of a large-scale drug deal that saw £25,000 of cocaine exchange hands metres from where he stood in his kitchen.
John Demko, 65, of Randolph Avenue, was arrested on suspicion of dealing cocaine on October 26 last year after police raided his flat and found him by the sink while a drug dealer cut lines of white powder on the kitchen table.
Dealer Johnny St Louis, 40, who was found in the kitchen, and Anton Pali, 29, who was caught by police leaving the property with tens of thousands of pounds in his rucksack, both pleaded guilty to drugs offences after they were arrested.
But a jury at the Old Bailey on Tuesday found Mr Demko not guilty of any offence after they were told he had been unaware of the drug deal taking place under his nose.
The jury heard that police had been following St Louis, of Westbourne Park, and Pali, of no fixed address, on suspicion of being involved with drug dealing.
Pali arrived at Mr Demko’s flat with the cocaine just before 2.30pm on October 26 and he was found to have swapped it for bundles of cash when stopped by police as he left half an hour later.
Officers then raided the flat and found more than half a kilo of cocaine in the kitchen and in the garden below.
St Louis and Pali admitted their charges but, when questioned at the scene, Mr Demko claimed the drugs were not his and he had never seen them before.
The jury heard that St Louis had previously lodged in Mr Demko’s flat and had retained a key to the property because he often helped the pensioner, who suffered from ill health.
Defence counsel Tom Stevens said Mr Demko had been “used and betrayed” by someone he trusted.
Recounting Mr Demko’s account of the events, he said: “On the day in question I was up in my room not feeling well, pretty much bedbound. I had no idea what was going on.
“When I did finally get out of my room I wandered downstairs with a view to going to the doctor’s and I saw Johnny St Louis.
“Moments later the police arrived and I was arrested, much to my surprise.”
Speaking outside court, Det Con Ismail Mattar of Westminster Crime Squad said: “Taking such a large quantity of drugs off the streets of London is always a good result.”
St Louis, who pleaded guilty to possession with intent to supply, and Pali, who pleaded guilty to producing a class A drug, will be sentenced at a later date.