A DOG breeder who denies orchestrating a £58,000 drug deal in a Darlington pub car park claimed the first time he met two of his co-defendants was in court.

Paul Baveridge was previously branded the brains behind a cocaine conspiracy which allegedly transported half a kilo of the drug from Lancashire to the north east last May.

But the 30-year-old who runs a bulldog fertility clinic in Darlington said he has never supplied drugs and he didn’t even know two of the men who he allegedly conspired with.

Baveridge of Pemberton Road, Newton Aycliffe, denies being part of the drug deal, along with Blake Stubbs, 23, Alex Howe, 22, Joseph McPartland, 28, and Ayaz Ismail, 36.

But two other men, Daniel Field, 29, and Oliver Pilkington, 25, admitted being part of the conspiracy at an earlier hearing.

Giving evidence at Teesside Crown Court, Baveridge said: “I have never agreed to supply drugs to anyone ever. I have never been involved in drug dealing and I don’t take drugs.”

Baveridge added he only corresponded with his co-defendants about dog breeding but the first time he met Ismail was in the court foyer for their trial and he only knew McPartland by name.

The court previously heard he travelled to mainland Europe to “avoid detection” after his co-defendants were arrested but he claimed to have visited Germany as part of his business, K9 Fertility Clinic.

Baveridge, Stubbs, of Pemberton Road, Newton Aycliffe, Howe, of no fixed abode, and McPartland, of Westfield Frosterley, Bishop Auckland deny one count of conspiring to supply cocaine.

Ismail, of Brixton Road, Preston, also denies the charge as well as a second count of possessing criminal property of £14,930.

Field, of Station Road, Durham admitted to being part of the conspiracy and Pilkington of Ley Street, Accrington, pleaded guilty to the charge as well as possessing criminal property of £14,930.

The trial continues.