A Dutch national who swallowed almost £40,000 worth of cocaine wrapped up in pellets in an attempt to smuggle it into the UK has been jailed for two years and eight months, the National Crime Agency said.

Martinus Gunning, 42, swallowed 50 of the pellets before boarding a flight to London.

He was investigated by the NCA after arriving at Gatwick Airport on January 10 2021.

Gunning was first stopped by Border Force officers and tried to claim he was in the UK to visit his girlfriend but later revealed he had swallowed the potentially lethal packages.

A total of 463g of cocaine at a purity of between 76% and 78% was eventually recovered, the NCA said.

It would have had a street value of around £37,000 once cut.

Gunning initially tried to enter the UK via the Eurostar from Amsterdam, but walked out of the station after being questioned by officers at immigration control and took a flight instead.

On Wednesday, he pleased guilty to importing class A drugs at Lewes Crown Court and was jailed for 32 months.

Mark McCormack, NCA branch commander, said: “This method of smuggling is dangerous. The rupture of a single one of the 50 pellets in the body could have been fatal.

“Organised crime groups use individuals like Martinus Gunning to transport drugs across borders for profit, with no thought for the safety of either the smuggler nor users of the drug, who should understand the unpleasant reality of how what they consume can be transported.”

He added: “The NCA continues to work with partners to tackle the class A drugs trade, which fuels violence and exploitation in the UK and around the world.”