The National Crime Agency has begun an investigation following the recovery of a significant quantity of what is thought to be cocaine from the coast of Dorset and Hampshire.

Holdalls containing hundreds of kilos of powder were discovered in the sea off the St Aldhelm’s point and Durdle Door areas in Purbeck.

And earlier today a further quantity washed up on a beach on the Isle of Wight.

The initial find was made on the 2nd of October by a fisherman who alerted Dorset Police.

The packages are currently being examined to confirm their contents and quantity.

The investigation is being supported by Border Force, Dorset Police and Hampshire Police.

NCA senior investigating officer Tracey Lake said: “We believe this a significant amount of class A drugs which would have originated in South America. A loss of a consignment of this size would represent a significant hit to the criminal networks involved.

“Our investigation is being assisted by both Dorset and Hampshire Police as well as Border Force. Any additional suspect packages encountered by members of the public should be reported to the relevant Police force”

Deputy Chief Constable Rachel Farrell, of Dorset Police, said: “Officers from our marine team, supported by colleagues from across the Force and HM Coastguard have been working tirelessly with the NCA and Border Force to recover these suspect packages.

“Searches remain ongoing and I would ask anyone who finds a holdall or similar package in suspect circumstances to please not touch the item, but contact Dorset Police immediately.

“We remain committed to joining forces with our partner agencies to relentlessly pursue criminals and organised gangs suspected of being involved in drug supply offences so that we can keep the public safe.”

Hampshire and Isle of Wight Constabulary’s ACC Stuart Murray said: “We have been supporting the ongoing investigation with searches across the West Wight today, after a number of packages were discovered this morning by a group who were out litter picking.

“This work is ongoing, and you will continue to see police throughout the evening and into tomorrow, and we would ask anyone who finds any suspicious bags or packages on the coastline of Hampshire and the Island to get in touch with us immediately.

“There is a member of the litter picking group, a man in his 60s, who we want to make contact with as we continue to speak with everyone in the vicinity this morning, and we would ask him to get in touch with him. He is of slim build, around 5ft 6ins tall and had short grey hair, with a birth mark on the right side of his mouth.

“Anyone who does locate any suspicious packages should call 999, with our call handlers able to provide further advice.

“Working with the National Crime Agency and our other partners, we will continue to do all we can to protect the safety of our communities across Hampshire and the Isle of Wight and make life as difficult as possible for those taking part in criminal activity.”