A FORMER soldier accused of conspiring to sell £58,000 worth of cocaine in Darlington was branded a liar and disgrace after suggesting the army left him with PTSD - but he was never deployed to a war zone, a court heard.

Joseph McPartland claimed he nearly lost his life seven times and has trouble sleeping after serving in the army and his PTSD made him panic when he was pulled over by police after the alleged drug deal last March.

But at Teesside Crown Court the 28-year-old was accused of lying after it was revealed he was dishonestly discharged from the army for “fighting and going awol” and he had never been deployed to a war zone.

McPartland is accused alongside Paul Baveridge, 30, Blake Stubbs, 23, Alex Howe, 22, and Ayaz Ismail, 36, who deny their involvement in the conspiracy to transport £58,000 worth of cocaine from Lancashire to Darlington.

But Daniel Field, 29, and Oliver Pilkington, 25, admitted being part of the drug ring at an earlier hearing.

The court previously heard evidence from three of the five defendants – Baveridge who was branded the “brains” behind the conspiracy, Ismail who is accused of transporting the cocaine from Lancashire to Darlington in exchange for £14,930 and McPartland.

But Howe and Stubbs, both from Newton Aycliffe, refused to stand in the witness box.

Delivering his closing statement, Paul Rooney, prosecuting, said McPartland was caught trying to run away from police with a shoe box containing £58,000 worth of cocaine after the deal was made in a pub car park.

But the 28-year-old claimed he believed he was part of a plan to deal cannabis – not cocaine – and his PTSD caused him to panic when he saw a dark figure approaching the car.

Addressing the jury, Mr Rooney said: “Mr McPartland told you he suffers from PTSD but was only diagnosed with anxiety and he had problems sleeping. He told you he had nearly been killed seven times. He inferred the threats to his life, lack of sleep and PTSD was a result of his army service.

“But he was dishonestly discharged for fighting and going awol. He was not deployed to a war zone. Anyone who infers they suffer PTSD as a result of army service when this is not true is a disgrace to the regiment he served.”

Mr Rooney branded the defendants’ claims as “distractions in the attempt to fool the jury” and said their stories “fit together like a jigsaw”.

He said: “We know a drug deal took place and every one of these defendants were involved.

“You know Oliver Pilkington came up from Lancashire with cocaine, we know this because he has pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs. We know that with him at the time was Ayaz Ismail.

“Ismail would have you believe he was an innocent passenger and he knew nothing about the cocaine or money. He said it was a coincidence that he was with Mr Pilkington, who has pleaded guilty, in a vehicle involved in a drug deal.

“We know the drugs were handed over by Mr Pilkington to a vehicle occupied by Blake Stubbs and Alex Howe. Neither of them gave evidence and neither of them deny this. They haven’t provided any possible alternative.

“We know Mr Howe handed the cocaine over to a van being driven by Daniel Field who has also pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A drugs. Hiding in that van was Joseph McPartland.”

He added: “It is a jigsaw but when you fit it altogether it is all about cocaine.”

Baveridge and 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 denies the charge and a second count of possessing criminal property amounting to £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 amounting to £14,930.

The trial continues.