A prisoner has been cleared of arranging for drugs and phones to be thrown over the wall of a jail into the garden where he was working.

Mark Morris was in Channings Wood Prison at Newton Abbot when a rugby ball-sized package was thrown over the fence.

He was on a tea break from a working party raking leaves in the grounds of the prison and was accused of being involved because a garden supervisor thought he saw him pass the package to another inmate.

The second prisoner called John Hogg fled from the polytunnel but was detained by prison officers and the parcel containing cocaine, Spice, the heroin substitute subutex and three phones was seized.

Officers investigating the smuggling attempt linked Morris to it after a miniature mobile phone was found hidden in a compost bin in the polytunnel.

It had calls from a number which was registered to a woman called Sarah Hewitt, who was a contact of Morris but had no known link with any other inmate.

The two calls were made just before and just after the package was thrown over the wall. The first said: ‘Bulkie, do you want one or two parcels?’

A second, sent just after the delivery, said: ‘xxx, happy I hope. I was panicking. Lol.’

He was found not guilty at Exeter Crown Court after he denied being ‘Bulkie’, or being involved in the smuggling and the jury were told there was no evidence of his fingerprints on the package.

He claimed to have been working just outside the polytunnel and never to have gone anywhere near the bin where the mini-phone was found.

The smuggling operation took place on December 6, 2016 when staff monitoring CCTV saw a package being thrown over the perimeter wall.

Morris had been recalled to prison three months earlier to complete a nine-year sentence for a brutal rape in Taunton in 2011 and growing cannabis at Englands Way, Chard, in 2009.

Avon and Somerset police issued an appeal in August 2016 to trace him after he broke the conditions of his licence by allegedly committing further offences.

They said he may be in Taunton, Chard, or Bridgwater and warned the public not to approach him.

Morris, aged 43, of Sycamore Close, Taunton, denied four counts possessing contraband items in prison and was found not guilty.

Hogg, aged 41, of Cross Street, Camborne, was accused of the same offences but was found dead in Rishton, near Blackburn, from a suspected drug overdose in May this year.

Morris remains in custody on recall but was awarded £28 to cover travel expenses for two earlier hearings when he was on bail by Recorder Mr James Freeman. 

During a two-day trial the court heard how CCTV operators at Channings Wood raised the alarm after seeing a package thrown over the fence at 10.22am. The prisoner who picked it up could not be identified from the footage.

A garden supervisor told the court he saw Morris pass the parcel to Hogg shortly afterwards and Hogg then fleeing before being caught.

It contained 1.41 grams of cocaine, 12 Subutex and 31.77 grams of  Spice, three phones, chargers, USB cables and a bluetooth earpiece.

Morris told the jury he knew nothing of the package which was thrown over the fence, never saw it or handled it. He said he did not dump the phone which was found in the compost bin and had no knowledge of the messages setting up the drop.

He said he was outside the polytunnel with another inmate named Alan Davies and had never been near Hogg, who had walked behind him and suddenly started running.

He said: ‘I did not pass anything to Hogg. I did not throw anything to him. Definitely not. Sarah Hewitt was never my partner. I never had use of an illegal phone. I did not throw it into the compost bin.’