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Liverpool Echo
Liverpool Echo
Andrew Nuttall & Abigail Nicholson

Dealer tried to hide package of cocaine up bottom during arrest

Nine cocaine and heroin dealers were jailed for a total of 30 years after they were snared by an undercover police officer.

Caernarfon Crown Court heard how all nine of the dealers were each individually brought down by an undercover officer, named "Jimmy". Prosecutor Nicola Williams told Judge Timothy Petts how 'Jimmy' arranged deals over phone lines "run from urban hubs" that were suspected to be involved in supplying drugs.

Liam Wignall, of Nequay Close in Runcorn, met 'Jimmy' in the Connah's Quay area to buy heroin on several different days over a course of two months. On December 21 last year, Wignall tried to flee from patrolling officers in Deeside who caught him in the area dealing out more Class A drugs, NorthWalesLive reports.

READ MORE: Man at centre of murder probe was on run accused of robbing two people

When arrested, the 30-year-old was found to have over £1,000 in bundles of cash and, during a strip search, a package of cocaine fell from him that he had attempted to "shove up his backside". Wignall, a former forklift truck driver, was jailed for for three years and eight months by the judge.

Harry Gray, 19, of Kingswood Boulevard in Higher Bebington on the Wirral, was also caught dealing drugs in North Wales. He met "Jimmy" in Connah's Quay with wraps of cocaine and heroin whilst awaiting sentence for leading Merseyside Police on a high-speed police chase through Birkenhead, reaching upwards of 70mph in 30mph zones, earlier in 2021.

Oliver King, defending, said his client clearly "had a choice" when it came to getting involved in drug dealing - but now has to "face the consequences" of his "self-inflected actions". The judge passed down an overall sentence of three years and nine months in a young offenders institute.

James Hill from Partington Avenue in Bootle, came to North Wales and sold drugs to "Jimmy" in a waterworks tunnel three times between January and February this year. The 22-year-old had his home in Liverpool raided by local officers who recovered cash and cannabis.

Mr King, also representing this defendant, said that Hill was "realistic" about his fate and is "determined to make the most of his time" in prison. Judge Petts passed a sentence of three years and three months.

Dean Ashfield, of Central Drive in Shotton, made a number of deals to 'Jimmy', including on a footpath alongside a local primary school in the middle of the day. The undercover officer encountered the 32-year-old - who cycled to his arranged heroin deals - between December 2021 and April this year before his eventual arrest.

His defence solicitor, Robin Boag, said that Ashfield was a regular drug abuser who resorted to crime in order to fund his habit. His choice landed him behind bars for three years and a month.

Charlotte Johnson, of Riverside Park in Garden City, was jailed for two years and two months. She was caught out twice by 'Jimmy' - once in December 2021 and again in March 2022. The undercover officer met with Johnson on both occasions in the Garden City area of Flintshire where he purchased heroin and crack cocaine worth £40 over both encounters.

When arrested, and shown footage of the street deals, the 37-year-old accepted she was involved in the supply. However, she told police she “forgot” what would happen to the cash she was given or how she got the drugs in the first place.

Defending, Howard Jones, said his client was “at the sharp end” of the operation, taking the “most risk” - only to be rewarded with "minimal cash or drugs for her own personal use". After hesitation, she was “largely cooperative with police” and is looking to "turn her life around".

Also of Riverside Park in Garden City, Lee Gerrard Edwards, 27, was caught out by 'Jimmy' on six occasions, supplying hundreds of pounds worth of both heroin and crack cocaine to the undercover officer between March and April.

Defending, Richard Edwards, told the court how his client had abused both alcohol and drugs throughout much of his life so far which contributed to his offending history. The judge jailed him for four years.

Rhyl-based Nathan Higgins, of East Parade, was jailed for a total of three years and eight months. The 30-year-old was caught making six deals with 'Jimmy' for both heroin and crack cocaine.

Defending, Gary Harvey, said that his client "dabbled" with drugs and soon built up hefty debts. He resorted to dealing in order to pay these off, adding that it was an "all too familiar story" that the courts hear.

Peter Ernest Bevan, 38, of Pen Y Llan Street in Connah's Quay, had been caught selling heroin to 'Jimmy' three times. His desire to carry on having enough cash to buy drugs proved "too difficult to resist" and saw him agree to deal out the substances for others higher up the operational chain, Mr Harvey said. He was given a jail sentence of three years.

Chad James William Stagg, 26, also of the Deeside area, was caught in the crossfire of this operation when he "followed orders" and acted as a middle man, providing pre-paid drugs to 'Jimmy' and others before getting his own. The court heard he was rewarded for this by having "extra" helpings of his chosen drugs.

Andrew Jebb, defending, argued that the court should act leniently as his client, from Chester Road West in Queensferry, was not hands-on involved in the dealing process, and was being used to minimise the amount of users being seen in one location. He was jailed for one year and 10 months.

A tenth defendant, Ryan Cross, of Riverside Park in Garden City, could not be sentenced today. It was explained to him by the judge that this was because his appointed barrister was currently away on holiday.

Cross stormed out of view, telling the court to "get f***ed", when hearing that the case against him would not proceed further and that he would be sentenced in September at the earliest due to the availability of court time. Ms Williams confirmed more defendants would be coming to court in the coming weeks.

Speaking after the sentencing, Senior Investigating Officer DI Mark Hughes said: “Today’s sentencings are the result of a six-month long investigation, undertaken by North Wales Police and the North West Regional Organised Crime Unit (NWROCU). The investigation provided valuable intelligence on how these gangs operate and will enable us to continue to disrupt drug-dealing networks in North Wales and beyond.

“The sentences passed in this case demonstrates our commitment to tackle County Lines drug supply into North Wales and should be a strong deterrent to anyone considering any type of involvement with illegal drugs. It also sends a clear message to all Organised Crime Groups (OCGs) that we will not tolerate illegal drug supply in North Wales, and those involved can expect firm and relentless action against them when caught.

“Tackling drug supply will remain a high priority for North Wales Police and I hope that the public are reassured by these convictions and the sentences imposed.”


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