Small piece of information led to downfall of trans-Pennine network that flooded Teesside with Class A drugs

Small piece of information led to downfall of trans-Pennine drugs network

Drugs recovered as part of Operation Cobweb

Jailed 9 years, four months: Jamie Knox, of Oldham

Jailed 6 years, 8 months: Mark Dutton, of Greater Manchester

Jailed 7 years: David Wrigley

Jailed 6 years: Ben Graham, of Oldham

Jailed 3 years, 6 months: Hannah Hesketh of Ashton-under-Lyne

First published in News
Last updated
The Northern Echo: Photograph of the Author by

A CALL from a concerned member of the public raising suspicions about neighbourhood drug dealing resulted in the most successful prosecution in Cleveland Police’s history.

From the small piece of intelligence detectives received, they were able to launch an investigation into the activities of suspected drug dealers which resulted in the closing down of a highly sophisticated and determined trans-Pennine Class A drug supply network.

It was a police chase that resulted in the conviction of Glen Walker and one of his accomplices, Paul Dismore, receiving jail sentences that altered the focus of the investigation when officers scoured through their mobile phone records.

The detailed investigation led to the discovery of links to drugs gangs across the Stockton and Middlesbrough area and the ‘industrial scale’ supply of heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine from the North West.

The Northern Echo:

Bag of drugs recovered during Operation Cobweb

Despite members using unregistered pay as you go telephones to conduct their business and taking the precaution of frequently changing their numbers – detectives were able to connect convicted armed robber Ben Crombie as the head of the North West side of the organisation.

Following seizures and arrests, police were able to build a picture of those involved by trawling through many thousands of communications between suppliers, couriers and dealers.

The Northern Echo:

Cash recovered during raids

Crombie’s right hand man James Kelly was a key organiser who would liaise with Teesside dealers and courier en route with the drugs.

However, it was tracing the couriers that proved problematic for investigators as Crombie and his gang recruited respectable, working people to carry out the trips across the Pennies dropping off drugs and picking up cash.

The Northern Echo:

Stephen Mayall, 20, of Greater Manchester: Jailed for 6 years, 8 months

Amongst the five North West couriers, who were sentenced at Teesside Crown Court, was 59-year-old Mark Dutton, whose wife was a bank manager until she was made redundant and he was a well established window fitter before losing his job and deciding to take easy money shipping drugs and cash around.

Another courier Ben Graham, who didn’t own a car, persuaded his legal secretary girlfriend Hannah Hesketh to drive backwards and forwards from Greater Manchester to Teesside. The court heard at first she didn’t realise the purpose behind the regular trips but didn’t stop even after she learned the true reason she was delivering packages to the Cleveland Police area.

On Teesside, Robert Hickman, of Shepherdson Court, South Bank, Middlesbrough, was the lynchpin who connected the separate drug dealing gangs within Crombie’s supply network.

The Northern Echo:

Drugs found in undergrowth

When the Recorder of Middlesbrough Simon Bourne Arton sentenced Hickman to 16 years in prison for his part in the conspiracy, he said very little happened in the Teesside area that he wasn’t aware of that involved the supply of drugs from this network.

Other major drug dealers on Teesside, including Jason Turnbull, Scott Hine, Scott Pickering (also known as McGowan), Martin Dougan and Junaid Mahmood were arrested on March 27 last year, when hundreds of officers carried out early morning raids to arrest 24 people involved in the conspiracy.

Today (Friday, May 2), 22 members of the supply network were sentenced for their role in the supply of Class A drugs.

Detective Sergeant Colin Helyer said: “All of these convictions came from one single piece of intelligence from a person who was raising concerns about suspected drug dealing where they lived. When we started out the investigation we didn’t know where it would lead.

“Through the hard work and dedication of our officers and colleagues over in Greater Manchester we have been able to close down a significant drug supply network.”

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