CUSTOMS officers have a new weapon in their fight against drug smuggling.
An electronic x-ray device which can detect drugs being carried inside someone's body has been introduced at Birmingham International Airport.
Customs chiefs claim the gadget, which works by scanning a person's body onto a computer screen and electronically stripping them of their clothes, penetrating the body, is winning the war on drugs mules, who illegally carry substances such as cocaine and cannabis in their stomachs.
The machine was installed at the airport 18 months ago following successful trials at other airports across the country.
Recently customs officers detected one man with 60 packages in his stomach and a woman with a capsule of drugs hidden in her body.
An estimated 50 to 60 thumb-sized pellets up to 10 grams in size can contain half a kilogram of drugs, worth about £20,000 on the streets.
Steve Roper, UK Border Agency detection manager, said: "People still try and smuggle drugs by swallowing them, they obviously think the financial rewards are worthwhile."
"When they arrive, it might be difficult to tell from their outward approach that anything is wrong but the scanner means we can see through that."
A man who tried to smuggle 26 kilos of cannabis through the airport has been given a 32 month prison sentence.
Daniel Hughes, 49, was arrested by the UK Border Agency after the drugs - which had a street value of £70,000 - were found hidden in his luggage.
Hughes, from Cape Town, had arrived at the airport earlier this year on a flight from South Africa.