A GROUP of men accused of making a £58,000 drug deal in Darlington were planning on selling cocaine to almost 500 people, a court heard.

Paul Baveridge, 30, Blake Stubbs, 23, Alex Howe, 22, Joseph McPartland, 28, and Ayaz Ismail, 36, deny being part of the drug ring which transported half a kilo of the class A drug from Lancashire to the north east last May.

But two other men, Daniel Field, 29, and Oliver Pilkington, 25, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy at an earlier hearing.

Teesside Crown Court heard the group planned to sell the cocaine to an estimated 482 people at £80 per gram once it reached Darlington.

Detective Constable Steven Miller, who has worked for Durham Constabulary’s drugs unit for 24 years, said the street value of the cocaine reached up to £58,000.

Giving expert evidence, he said several text messages sent between the men in the lead up to the deal, which took place in a car park of a Darlington pub, indicated their involvement.

The court heard the suspects used terminology such as "tea time is coming" to refer to the drug deal being made and "half a box" to mean half a kilo. DC Miller also pointed out that one message sent by McPartland expressed concern of losing customers to other dealers.

But Nigel Edwards QC defending Baveridge, said his client was involved in other business dealings including the breeding of bulldogs which the text messages could have been referring to.

Shaun Rooney, prosecuting, said Baveridge had “at least” two mobile phones which today a police analyst confirmed were “burner phones” and were never recovered.

The 30-year-old of Pemberton Road, Newton Aycliffe, was previously branded the “brains” and “controlling mind” of the drug ring who did not physically make the deal but dictated instructions from afar.

Baveridge is also accused of confronting an undercover police officer who was watching his home just hours before the drug deal as well as booking a hotel and travelling to mainland Europe to “avoid detection”.

The court previously heard the group were under police surveillance and the £58,000 drug deal was witnessed by another undercover police officer.

The stash was seized by police after a van occupied by McPartland, of Westfield Frosterley, Bishop Auckland and Field, of Station Road, Durham, was followed and stopped.

A shoe box containing the cocaine is said to have fallen to the ground when McPartland tried to escape but he claimed to have panicked because he suffers from PTSD and he was unaware of what was inside the box.

The court heard cash amounting to £14,930 was later seized from a car occupied by Ismail, of Brixton Road, Preston, and Pilkington, of Ley Street, Accrington, as they drove back to Lancashire following the drug deal.

But Ismail said he was not involved in supplying drugs and claimed the money belonged to Pilkington who was planning to buy a car.

Baveridge, Stubbs, of Pemberton Road, Newton Aycliffe, Howe, of no fixed abode, and McPartland deny one count of conspiring to supply cocaine, while Ismail denied the charge as well as a second count of possessing criminal property of £14,930.

Field admitted to being part of the conspiracy and Pilkington pleaded guilty to the charge as well as possessing criminal property of £14,930.

The trial continues.