Opioid epidemic, drug abuse concept
Opioid epidemic, drug abuse concept

‘Hopeless addict’: Pensioner recruited into drug syndicate

A "HOPELESS" opioid addict who was recruited into an alleged Cairns heroin ring has been released on parole after a year behind bars.

Disability pensioner Neal Purdon, 64, was an easy target for the syndicate's alleged bosses Wade Wigram and Brooke Fitzgerald to enlist to deal the substance for several months in late 2019, the court heard.

He pleaded guilty in the Cairns Supreme Court to drug trafficking, possession, weapons possession and failing to properly dispose of a syringe on Thursday.

Fitzgerald has been listed for sentencing, while Wigram is disputing his charges and has been committed to stand trial.

Crown prosecutor Rachel Boivin told the court Purdon was given up to 12 packets of heroin at a time to sell for $100 each and was told to keep two as payment.

She said he sold about 120 packets per month.

"The defendant jumped at that opportunity (to sell drugs), having a significant history of addiction," she said.

She told the court he later told police he would have likely had second thoughts if he realised his offending amounted to trafficking.

Defence barrister Michael Dalton said Purdon had been a long-term drug user who became dependent on opioids in his 50s when he suffered a back injury.

He had more than 30 prior drug possession convictions.

"He has dabbled in ... almost the full catalogue of drugs," he said.

Justice Jim Henry said Purdon was "hopeless" and vulnerable when recruited and was even allegedly threatened by Wigram that his house would be burned down if he did not sell the drugs faster.

"Your life circumstances are sad," he said.

Originally published as 'Hopeless addict': How pensioner was recruited into drug syndicate


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