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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Oliver Clay

Cocaine courier blew kiss in court after crashing stolen motorbike

A drug courier blew a kiss in court after he crashed a stolen motorbike into a car leaving him unconscious in the road.

Thomas Kehoe, 29, of Lathum Close, Prescot, appeared at Chester Crown Court on Friday where he faced sentence for a range of charges relating to activity in Runcorn and Birmingham. Oliver King, prosecuting, told how Kehoe had attracted the attentions of the authorities in Birmingham on February 18 when detectives had been watching a white van driven by Kehoe as it visited various residential areas, stopping for a short time in each one, and decided to intervene.

When the vehicle parked up in a cul-de-sac and Kehoe emerged, a detective approached to speak to him, but Kehoe saw them, jumped back in and tried to drive off. Another police car pulled across his path, “boxing him in”, so Kehoe abandoned the van and ran away.

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Under the passenger seat, officers found a “Tesco carrier bag with 2kg of cocaine” inside, and Kehoe’s fingerprints on the outside. The drugs were valued at around £50,000-£60,000.

Mr King said Cheshire Police also linked Kehoe to a county lines drug ring called the “Josh Team”, which was supplying Class A controlled substances from Merseyside into Cheshire. Investigators working on "Operation Toxic" identified a pay-as-you-go graft phone number as linked to the Josh Team, and tracked down CCTV footage of Kehoe paying to top up its credit at a shop in Liverpool.

The phone had been used to send flare messages advertising Class A drug sales, namely heroin and crack cocaine, in Runcorn. Kehoe was identified as the phone’s holder because “the most frequent number was to call his girlfriend”.

A second graft phone was also linked to Kehoe. His drug-dealing activities came to a crashing halt when he drove a stolen motorbike into a car on Halton Road in Runcorn on June 9.

At the time he was banned from driving and had neither insurance nor a helmet. Mr King said: “He overtook a line of traffic that was stationary.

“As he got to the end of that traffic, the lead vehicle turned right into his path causing him to be thrown from the bike and knocked unconscious.

Police inspect the scene of the collision on Halton Road in June. (runcornweeklynews)

“He was treated by paramedics and arrested.

Kehoe later pleaded guilty to: possession with intent to supply Class A cocaine relating to the Birmingham bust, driving without due care and attention, uninsured driving, driving disqualified, driving other than in accordance with a licence, attempting to possess Class B amphetamines, and being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs crack cocaine and heroin spanning September 2021 to June 2022.

Mr King said Kehoe had nine previous convictions for 15 offences including a jail term for cocaine and heroin supply, and although he described Kehoe as a “courier”, he said graft phones were a “valued and prized possession” that indicated a significant or leading role.

Recorder Mark Ainsworth concurred the graft phone is the “hub of activity” for a drug ring.

Keith Jones, defending, said Kehoe’s “best mitigation” was his guilty pleas, which would reduce his sentence by a third.

Mr Jones said Kehoe became involved in selling drugs due to being addicted himself and a drug debt, adding there were still people “knocking at his mother’s door, his partner’s door” in relation to that, in addition to “incidents in prison when he’s had to defend himself as a result of the money on his head”.

He said Kehoe has been offered money to “carry out a similar attack on somebody else to have his debt reduced”.

Mr Jones presented a letter from Kehoe to the judge for him to read also, but said his client did not want updated medical details of his injuries following the crash to be provided, and wished to be sentenced instead of waiting to obtain an update.

The police cordon on Halton Road in June. (runcornweeklynews)

Recorder Ainsworth expressed sympathy for Kehoe’s family circumstances, but dismissed arguments that his drug activity amounted to “lesser role”, noting Kehoe had graft phones and 2kg of cocaine - meaning he was “in it, you’re not peripheral”.

The judge sentenced Kehoe to five years and four months in prison, with four months concurrent for driving disqualified.

He banned Kehoe from driving for a period of 12 months, to start upon his release.

Sending him down, Recorder Ainsworth said: “Let me make myself clear. I don’t regard you as a victim in this case. Yes, there were pressures upon you, but you chose to act in this way, and finally pass the misery onto other people.”

The judge approved the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs and phones, and ordered a statutory surcharge. Kehoe blew a kiss to the public gallery before he headed down to the cells.

When the ECHO attended the scene of the collision on Halton Road on June 9, the Yamaha motorbike and Citroen car could be seen at the junction with Ringway Road, with the bike picked up and leaned against the front end of the car. A heavy emergency services presence was in the area, including a collision investigation team.

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