A JAILED drug dealer has been cleared of handling thousands of pounds of stolen antiques after the prosecution dropped the case against him.
James Fielder, 63, was caught boarding a yacht to flee the country at the same time as the consignment of rare glassware and porcelain was delivered to the quayside.
The antiques had been stolen months earlier in a raid on a collector's home in Horrabridge, near Tavistock.
Detectives suspected he had taken them in exchange for supplying drugs and was planning to take them out of the country with him on the yacht Misty Moonbeam.
The case against him was dropped because he is already serving an 11-year sentence, passed in November, for his part in a major drug dealing operation in North Devon.
Fielder was caught by a police surveillance operation at Steps Ford Farm, Landkey in 2010. He was filmed receiving £10,000 worth of cocaine from a courier. He was pounced on by detectives and tried to throw the package of drugs away but it was found in undergrowth near by.
Part of a previous consignment was found down a rabbit hole on the farm and police intelligence suggested he had handled at least £150,000 worth of drugs before he was caught.
Fielder, of Corfe Green House, Braunton, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and was jailed for 11 years by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC last year.
Courier Glen Hilsden, 39, from Staines, was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of the same charge in June.
Fielder's partner Shirley Ash, 53, was cleared of the same conspiracy.
Fielder had been due to face a second trial accused of handling antique Lalique glass and valuable porcelain but the Crown Prosecution Service has discontinued the case.
Jonathan Barnes, for the prosecution, said in light of Fielder's lengthy sentence, it was not in the public interest to pursue the lesser matter of handling. He said the victim of the burglary was happy with the decision and has had all his property returned.
The antiques, which included a Lalique vase worth £2,000, were recovered by police when they thwarted the first attempt by Fielder to leave the country after he was given bail in June 2010.
He was found aboard the Misty Moonbeam at Penzance wet dock as the vessel was being fuelled with enough diesel to get him to the Canaries.
The antiques arrived with his baggage in a van which drew up on the quayside.
He was given bail again but fled successfully after fobbing off officers with the wrong passport and spent two years in Thailand before returning to Britain last autumn.