AN organised crime gang who supplied cocaine wrapped in cupcake casings to thousands of drug users have been jailed.

During a five-month surveillance operation of addresses in Newcastle used by the gang, police saw 6,500 customers turning up to be cocaine.

And when officers raided the gang in February, they found an arsenal of weapons including six airguns, 90 knives, half a dozen axes, knuckle dusters and crossbows.

Members of the gang have now been put behind bars for a total of 16-and-a-half years.

Five men were jailed at Newcastle Crown Court after admitting conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Michael Conroy, 38, of Sungold Villas, Newcastle, was jailed for five years six months; Walter Henderson, 53, of Meldon Terrace, Newcastle, was jailed for three years; Paul Basey, 50, of Armstrong Road, Newcastle, was jailed for four years; Karl Greenwell, 37, of Benwell Lane, Newcastle, was jailed for two years and Barry Newton, 26, Newton Street, Haltwhistle, was jailed for two years.

Chief inspector Barrie Joisce, who led the investigation, said: "This organised crime gang thought they were untouchable, that they were above the law and that they would never get caught.

"Their drug dealing made their neighbours' lives a living hell and the anti-social behaviour linked to their dealing had a significant impact on the local community.

"The operation they ran was sophisticated and it took a lot of hard work from our officers to carry out months of surveillance work.

"In the end it was our own operation that brought them back down to earth and we welcome the custodial sentences handed out today”.

He added: "The sheer volume of weapons we seized from one of the properties shows just how dangerous these individuals were and the threat they posed to society.

"Newcastle is a safer place with these individuals behind bars and we hope it sends a strong message to the public - nobody is untouchable and nobody is above the law."