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Members of five organised crime groups behind a major drugs supply racket have been locked up for a total of 132 years in prison.

Tens of thousands of pounds worth of illegal drugs were found by police after exchanges made by group members.

Police today welcomed the sentences saying the group members had ‘played a significant role in fuelling drug crime’ in the Midlands.

In total, 23 group members, based in areas including Cannock, Stafford and Walsall, pleaded guilty in earlier hearings to conspiracy to supply either class A or class B drugs.

The majority of defendants were sentenced at Stafford Crown Court this week.

The court heard that cocaine and M-CAT, which is a class B synthetic stimulant drug, was being transported through the group’s links in the West Midlands, Swindon and Derbyshire.

Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime department led the operation to bring them to justice.

It investigated the organised crime group based in Cannock and led by John Appleton and Michael O’ Mahoney.

Appleton and O’Mahoney were each jailed for 14 years yesterday for leading the complex cocaine and mephedrone supply ring.

Detectives tracked the movements of Appleton and O’ Mahoney after their release from prison in 2013, after they formed a tight-knit Cannock group with Jason Bayley, Carol Pope, Derek Hodgkiss and Russell Degg.

Bayley and Pope were the trusted couriers of drugs and money, said Staffordshire Police, while Hodgkiss acted as Pope’s driver.

The force said Degg provided a safe-house for storage in Repton Close, Cannock, as the group initially supplied MCAT and cocaine to another group in Swindon, Wiltshire.

Detectives tracked the group’s activity, through phone analysis and vehicle movements along the M6 and M5.

Arrests were made on February 28, 2015, when a quantity of cocaine and two kilos of MCAT were supplied to Gary and Keith Peapell near to junction 11A of the M5 in Gloucestershire.

The rural area of Crickley Hill Country Park became a significant meeting place for members of the two crime groups, said investigating officers.

Adam Farmer, David Perkins and Lee Higgins were part of a group in Redditch which was supplied with multiple quantities of MCAT by the Cannock group.

On March 4, 2015, following an exchange with Higgins, Carol Pope was stopped in a car in Cannock and £35,000 was discovered in the foot-well.

Fingerprints were discovered on a cash bag which linked the Redditch and Swindon groups, Staffordshire Police said.

Jason Bayley was due to meet Lewis Chambers on March 16, 2015, in a deal brokered by Jamie Sleigh on behalf of the Cannock and West Midlands crime groups.

The meeting was due to be held at the Chase Gate pub, in Wolverhampton Road, Cannock, when he was intercepted and arrested by officers with 4kg of MCAT in a bag.

The force say the Cannock group also formed links with Shane Andrews and the Stafford group.

Darren Pearson, who later acted as a warehouseman for the Cannock group following earlier enforcement, then went on to supply Andrews with half a kilo of cocaine.

The crime group were proven to have well-established links with Gareth Pincombe, head of the Derbyshire crime group.

Appleton and O’Mahoney ran out of runners and dealers as detectives closed in on the group.

He asked his son, Bret Appleton, to collect MCAT, but Bret was arrested on his return from Swadlincote with 3kg of MCAT.

Inspector Pete Cooke, of Staffordshire Police’s Major and Organised Crime team, said: “These sentences reflect the commitment and hard work of officers. We’re delighted to see offenders who have preyed on the vulnerable in our communities behind bars for a considerable period of time.

“All of them played a significant role in fuelling drug crime in south Staffordshire and elsewhere across the Midlands and South West and their sentences are very much welcomed.

“Staffordshire Police is committed to tackling drug crime in our communities and our work will continue under Operation Nemesis.”

Full list of defendants and sentences

John Appleton, aged 46, of Locketts Court, Cannock, sentenced to 14 years
Michael O’ Mahoney, aged 43, of Avenue Road, Cannock, sentenced to 14 years
Gary Peapell, aged 38, of Swindon, sentenced to 8 years 8 months
Adam Farmer, aged 35, of Kineton Close, Redditch, sentenced to 8 years 6 months
Shane Andrews, aged 35, of John Donne Street, Stafford, sentenced to 8 years
Gareth Pincombe, aged 38, of Repton Road, Swadlincote, sentenced to 8 years 2 months
Jason Bayley, aged 45, of Leamington Close, Cannock, sentenced to 8 years
Carol Pope, aged 44, of Glover Street, Cannock, sentenced to 7 years 2 months
Darren Pearson, aged 46, of Moss Street, Cannock, sentenced to 7 years 2 months
Jamie Wilson, aged 38, of Sidney Avenue, Stafford, sentenced to 6 years 9 months
Keith Peapell, aged 62, Swindon, sentenced to 6 years
Russell Degg, aged 40, of Repton Close, Cannock, sentenced to 6 years
Scott Kenny, aged 32, of Mosedale, Rugby, sentenced to 5 years 4 months
Lewis Chambers, aged 26, of Hillary Street, Walsall, sentenced to 4 years
Lucy Butler, aged 35, of Sanderling Close, Featherstone, sentenced to 4 years
Richard Menzies, aged 33, of Meadow View Road, Swadlincote, sentenced to 3 years 7 months
Jamie Sleigh, aged 37, of St John’s Road, Cannock, sentenced to 3 years 7 months
David Perkins, aged 31, of Hindlip Close, Redditch, sentenced to 3 years 4 months
Bret Appleton, aged 25, of Locketts Court, Cannock, sentenced to 20 months
Derek Hodgkiss, aged 56, of St John’s Road, Cannock, received a 17 month suspended sentence
Lee Higgins, aged 32, of Fownhope Close, Redditch, received an 11-month suspended sentence.
Matthew Parsons, aged 34, of Lower Birches Way, Rugeley, was sentenced to a total of 3 years 6 months for class A and class B supply on December 13, 2016.
Kyle Wilson, 19, of Merrivale Road, Stafford, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of class B drugs and was sentenced to 14 months’ detention in a youth offenders’ institution on April 7, 2017.
Express & Star

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A man stopped as he drove a BMW on the motorway was found to have cocaine residue in his body.

Jordan Leak, a 22-year-old salesman, of Waring Drive, Thornton, pleaded guilty to drug driving.

He was disqualified from driving for 16 months and fined £120 with £85 costs plus £30 victims’ surcharge.

Prosecutor, Martine Connah, said police received a tip-off and stopped Leak on the M55 at Kirkham, on May 6 at 2.40am.

A blood test showed 100 micrograms of a cocaine residue in his body – 50 is the legal limit.

David Charnley, defending, said Leak would lose his job.

Blackpool Gazette

A “nightmare” Worksop tenant has been evicted after a woman was found dead from a suspected drugs overdose at his council flat.

Housing officers found drugs paraphernalia, including used needles, when visiting Gregory Simmonite’s flat in the aftermath of the woman’s death on August 13.

Neighbours also complained about his abusive, threatening and disruptive behavior around the flat on Lancastrian Way.

Simmonite, aged 39, had moved into the ground floor flat in June 2016 and by the end of July,A1 Housing had received multiple complaints that an excessive number of visitors were calling at all hours of the day and night.

Many of were intoxicated and would congregate in the communal areas of the building. Further complaints were received when residents were subjected to verbal and sometimes racist abuse after asking visitors to reduce the noise levels. This was also escalated when Simmonite made threats to kill a resident when they confronted him about damage to their property.

A notice to formally end the tenancy was served on September 15 and, at the request of Simmonite, was considered by A1 Housing’s introductory tenancy appeals board on October 12 2016, which upheld the notice.

Earlier this month, a judge granted possession of the property to A1 Housing and Bassetlaw District Council at Mansfield County Court and also ordered Simmonite to pay costs of £491.75.

Don Spittlehouse, managing director for A1 Housing, said: “Officers of A1 Housing have provided numerous opportunities of help, advice and assistance to Mr Simmonite on how he can sustain his tenancy. However, he did not heed these warnings and in the interests of other residents of this community we have taken the most appropriate action.”

Councillor Julie Leigh, cabinet member for neighbourhoods at Bassetlaw District Council, said: “Residents should not be subjected to a living nightmare at the hands of one individual.”

Worksop Guardian

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A serial burglar was caught with 13 wraps of amphetamine strapped to his private parts when police arrested him for an attempted house raid.

Mark Wright confessed “it’s wizz, for my personal use”, when the packages, attached to his penis and testicles, were found.

It is believed he had used cellotape to hold the drugs in place and confessed he had been trying to hide them from his wife.

Newcastle Crown Court heard the 43-year-old, who has served prison sentences for burglaries in the past, was arrested by police who caught him trying to break into a house at Close Street in Sunderland on August 25.

Prosecutor Neil Pallister told the court: “While in custody the defendant was subjected to a full body search and 13 wraps of white powder were found strapped to his penis and testicles.

“On them being discovered, he said ‘it is wizz, for personal use’.”

Wright, of Rosedale Street, Sunderland, admitted attempted burglary and possession of amphetamine.

Alec Burns, defending, said, despite Wright’s bad criminal record, he had found work since his last jail term and was staying away from trouble.

Mr Burns said: “He was taking amphetamine to allow him to work longer hours.

“He had to buy the drugs and got into debt.

“He was hiding the fact he was using drugs again from his wife, who would have stopped him had she known. ”

Mr Burns said the attempted break-in was a blip, not a sign Wright, who still has a job open to him, was going back to his “old ways”.

Mr Recorder Christopher Williams sentenced Wright, who has spent a month in custody on remand, to 15 months imprisonment, suspended for 18 months, with
rehabilitation requirements.

The judge said he accepted Wright had “done well” since his release from prison and told him: “I accept you are disappointed in yourself.

“It is in your hands now.”
Sunderland Echo

ONE OF Britain’s biggest criminals was convicted at the Old Bailey yesterday of taking part in a drugs deal which was foiled by an undercover police operation.

Joseph Pyle, 56, of Morden, south London, will be sentenced later together with Frank Tyson, 62, of no fixed address, who acted as a courier in the deal involving class A drugs.

Peter Gillett, 32, described as a pop singer and bit part actor, was also convicted of taking part in a drugs deal. Gillett, of Burgess Hill, West Sussex, who claimed to have been ‘adopted’ by Reggie Kray, the gangster, while serving six years for armed robbery in Parkhurst prison, was found guilty of dealing in class A drugs.

Pyle masterminded two deals involving heroin and a heroin substitute worth an estimated pounds 300,000, the court was told. The three will be sentenced next month.

A fourth defendant, Terence Plummer, 55, a stuntman, of Leatherhead, Surrey, was acquitted of being involved in drug dealing.

Detectives from the South-east Regional Crime Squad drugs wing uncovered the deal after an informer was approached by Pyle and asked about buyers for heroin. An undercover detective moved in posing as a buyer and Pyle was kept under surveillance despite the fact he practised anti- surveillance measures designed to throw police off his trail.

The jury were told how the first deal to buy pounds 25,000 worth of heroin went wrong when one of Pyle’s men could not open the boot of an unmarked police car in which the drug was supposed to be left.

Despite the failure Pyle was anxious to strike a deal with the undercover officer, named only as ‘Dave’ in court.

He offered to sell the officer thousands of ampoules of morphine sulphate and opium stolen from a Ministry of Defence consignment after the Gulf war. The drugs were used to relieve the pain of wounded soldiers.

Pyle arranged to meet ‘Dave’ at the Sheraton Skyline hotel, Heathrow, in July last year. Before the meeting he was seen by police surveillance officers meeting Gillett at Burgh Heath, in Surrey.

Switching surveillance to Gillett, police witnessed him driving to Brighton where he met Tyson. Both men then went to a lock-up garage where they were seen placing black plastic bags believed to contain the drugs into the car.

They drove to Heathrow where Pyle instructed them to leave it in the back of another unmarked police car. Pyle was paid pounds 14,000 and was arrested as he left the hotel room. Gillett and Tyson were arrested at a neighbouring hotel.

The convictions came at the end of two trials estimated to have cost nearly pounds 1m.

The first, at Southwark Crown Court, was aborted after three members of the jury said they had been offered money to return not guilty verdicts. When they refused they were threatened with violence. During the latest trial, jurors were given 24-hour police protection and armed police were in court.

As a result of the investigation detectives made the biggest police seizure of heroin in Britain: 40kg (88lbs), worth an estimated pounds 8m, were recovered from a warehouse in Wimbledon, south London, in August last year.

Detectives say they did not have enough evidence to link the haul to the defendants although the chemical composition is identical to that seized from a man working for Pyle when the first drug deal failed.

The Independent

GANGSTER Reggie Kray’s ‘adopted’ son Peter Gillett swallowed a bag of heroin when police searched the house he was in, a court heard.

Gillett, 43, of Apsley Close, Bewbush, admitted unlawful possession of controlled Class A drug heroin when he faced Crawley Magistrates Court.

He was found with 6.872grams of the substance when a search warrant was issued to investigate a property in Caburn Court, Southgate.

Gillett hastily swallowed a bag of heroin on the arrival of the police and a bag similar to that he swallowed was found close to his head after he collapsed on the floor.

Another was found in his hand after he arrived at hospital.

Katherine Travis, prosecuting, said: “He went into a coma and was unconscious for seven days.

“The heroin was cut with a number of other substances. The street value was approximately 250.”

Gillett, who has claimed in the past Kray befriended him during their time in prison together and has insisted Reggie “sort of adopted him”, has suffered permanent damage from swallowing the large quantity of drugs.

Geoff White, defending, said: “It is not clear how much he swallowed but it was enough to permanently damage him.

“He is now having difficulty walking and remembering and functioning at all.

“He has done irreparable damage to his nervous system. He has had substantial prison sentences in the past and while in prison he became addicted to controlled drugs. On his release he was heavily addicted.

“He has realised his addiction has taken him close to the end and he has resolved never to take drugs again.”

Gillett was given a conditional discharge for three years and was ordered to pay 70 costs.

Crawley Observer

A vandal who painted offensive graffiti on a random pub and house ‘has no idea’ why he did so.

Kieron Wright, 23, used black paint to daub slogans onto the wall of a house in Hylton Road, and the nearby Railway Tavern pub, Sunderland magistrates heard.

The court was told the properties were randomly selected, and had nothing to do with what was written on them.

Prosecutor Lee Poppett said: “This case concerns three offences of graffiti, for want of a better term.”

Mr Poppett said a rented property was defaced twice, on July 3, and July 7.

And on July 4, he repeated the offence on an outside wall of the Railway Tavern.

Mr Poppett added: “There is no suggestion that either of the premises were targeted in any way, or racially motivated in any way.

“Mr Wright has taken it upon himself to write on them in black paint.”

He was identified from CCTV footage and when police searched his house, they found a small amount of cannabis bush.

Wright, of Rosedale Street, Sunderland, admitted three counts of criminal damage, possession of cannabis, and breaching two conditional discharges.

He has 33 previous convictions for a total of 47 offences, five of which were criminal damage.

Tony Southwick, defending, said: “The second incident on July 7, he painted over what he had previously painted. He added a little bit extra.

“This was not targeted in any way. It’s not racially aggravated because he would not have known who the landlord was.

“He has no explanation as to why he has done this.

“He accepts that the small quantity of cannabis in the house was for his own personal use. He tells me it’s barely enough to make one joint.

“He was laid off from work in May and he uses cannabis more or less on a daily basis because he is bored.”

Wright was sentenced to a six-month community order with 10 days’ specified activity.

He was told to pay a £50 fine, and £110 in compensation.

Sunderland Echo