A FORMER soldier has categorically denied being involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine but admitted in court that he was involved in the buying and selling of cannabis.

Joseph McPartland is one of five men standing trial after allegedly making a £58,000 drug deal in Darlington.

The 28-year-old, from Frosterley, Paul Baveridge, 30, Blake Stubbs, 23, 22-year-old Alex Howe 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 how McPartland was arrested with drugs in a Nike shoe box after undercover police watched the drug deal unfurl in a pub car park in Darlington.

Under cross examination by Paul Rooney, prosecuting, McPartland told jurors how he was a former codeine addict who had also taken cocaine but categorically denied ever selling the Class A drug.

The court heard how the former Scots Guard had hidden in the rear of the van while the deal was taking place but was in the passenger seat with the drugs on his knee when officers pulled the vehicle over.

Mr Rooney quizzed the defendant about his involvement in the cocaine deal after admitting he regularly bought and sold cannabis which he sold to a small group of friends in the Weardale area.

When asked why he had stayed in the van following the deal, McPartland replied: "I knew something dodgy was going on but I didn't want to know what – I only found out after the event.

"If I had known for a single second it was a cocaine deal, I would have walked away."

Previously, 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.

After reading out a series of text messages between McPartland and Daniel Field and messages between Field and co-accused Paul Baveridge, Mr Rooney said it was clear they were involved in a drugs deal.

McPartland responded: "No it's not. I can see how it looks, believe me, but that deal was nothing to do with me."

When asked why he ran away when the policed swooped to make their arrests, McPartland said: "I was an absolute idiot for trying to run away – it's something that haunts me every night."

The court had heard how 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.

The trial continues.