A FORMER soldier who survived a tragic helicopter crash has been jailed for six years after police seized a £1million heroin haul.

Paisley man Gary Cowan, 32, was caught with the drugs while driving on the M74, near Lesmahagow, Lanarkshire, in June 2020.

He was in a van belonging to garage boss John Craig, 31, who has been jailed for eight years after he helped to organise the trafficking operation.

Both were sentenced at the High Court in Glasgow today.

They had been convicted last month of being concerned in the supply of heroin, despite both effectively blaming each other.

Cowan's lawyer told the court the ex-Royal Regiment of Scotland soldier continues to suffer the "trauma" of an Army helicopter accident at Catterick Garrison, Yorkshire, in 2007, in which a close friend died.

It was stated that dad-of-five Cowan turned to crime during the first pandemic lockdown in June 2020.

Jurors heard how the 8kg drug haul, some of which was of high purity, was potentially worth more than £1m.

Cowan claimed he had been asked to drive to Liverpool to collect car parts for Craig, who runs a garage in Airdrie, Lanarkshire.

He said he met a man in Merseyside and left him with the van for 10 or 15 minutes.

When police swooped on Cowan on the M74 as he drove back to Scotland, the drugs were found hidden in the van and he was arrested.

Giving evidence, Craig insisted Cowan, who he knew from a car enthusiasts' club, had asked to borrow his works van.

He claimed to only be aware of any issue when Cowan failed to return with the vehicle and his phone was then tracked to Motherwell police station.

The court heard the heroin was found stashed in a padlocked compartment of the van but Craig said he had bought the vehicle from a joiner who had built the hide to prevent his tools being stolen.

It was also stated that Cowan had joined the Army at the age of 17 but the helicopter tragedy ended his military career and left him needing multiple operations, as well as counselling.

Solicitor-advocate Billy Lavelle, representing Cowan, said: "He was involved in a fatal accident. It was a pretty traumatic event and continues to affect him.

"His partner is understandably concerned about him."

Passing sentence, Lord Armstrong said he was imposing different jail terms as Craig was involved in the "planning and logistics of the supply operation."

Craig, of Toryglen, Glasgow, was also made the subject of a three-year Serious Crime Prevention Order – often described as 'a super-Asbo' – which will see him being monitored by the authorities once he is freed.