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Downfall of Burnhope's Mr Big
Three years ago unlikely crime kingpin Alan Wright claimed he was the victim of police harassment and challenged officers to take him to court. Today, he is behind bars for his role in a £3m insurance fraud. Gavin Havery reports.
ALAN Wright was the head of an organised crime network that spread beyond his immediate family, including his son, brothers and nephews, and into the communities of north Durham.
Publicly, he protested his innocence and claimed to live a simple life in a caravan on land in Burnhope.
The father-of-seven also said he could not read or write and was unable to understand notices of criminality sent to him by police monitoring his activities.
But behind the scenes he was helping to orchestrate one of the most widespread insurance scams in the country.
Such were their notoriety that the Wright family even renamed two streets after themselves. One actually appeared on Google Maps.
Six members of his family have been convicted along with 53 friends and associates, details of which can only be reported now restrictions have been lifted by a judge at Newcastle Crown Court.
Chief Superintendent Rob Coulson said: “We didn’t just come across this activity. It was as a result of our communities telling us that organised crime groups were making their lives difficult.”
But the saga of controversy between the Wrights and Durham Police goes back several years.
Officers determined to crack their organised crime ring made national headlines in November 2009 by taking down illegal street signs for Wrights Way and Wrights Court, renaming them Front Street and Burnhope Court.
The following year Alan Wright was served with a notice warning him not to commit any criminal acts and in 2011 police blocked the Wrights' plan to buy an overgrown plot of land at Italby Paddock, in Burnhope.
Three years ago, claiming police harassment, he said: “If I am a criminal why aren’t I in jail?”
Today, as a result of a long-running investigation into fraudulent car insurance claims, Alan Wright has been granted his wish.
The painstaking "cash for crash" investigation revealed he had four fake crashes within just ten months.
Another family member bought an Audi with 112,000 miles on the clock, staged an accident in it near his home in Burnhope, and when he made a claim after apparently writing it off, its mileage had dropped to 37,000, making it much more valuable.
Durham’s Chief Constable Mike Barton: “This investigation has cost a significant amount of money, but it is worthwhile when we send lifetime criminals to prison.
“My satisfaction springs from the satisfaction of a community now rid of these people.”