A FORMER military man accused of taking part in a £58,000 cocaine deal in Darlington claimed he ran away from police holding the drugs because his anxiety caused him to panic.

Joseph McPartland, 28, was previously branded a liar and disgrace to his regiment after “inferring” the Army left him with PTSD, despite never serving in a war zone.

But slamming the allegation, Robert Mochrie, defending, told Teesside Crown Court it is “very, very wrong” to suggest “mental illness is just reserved for people who have seen war”.

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

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

The court previously heard McPartland, who admitted to using and dealing cannabis, suffers from anxiety and panic attacks, which he claimed caused him to flee from the police whilst holding a shoe box containing the drugs.

But Paul Rooney, prosecuting, said the 28-year-old “inferred” his anxiety was a result of serving in the Army – but he was dishonestly discharged and was never deployed to a war zone.

Delivering his closing statement, Mr Mochrie said: “The crown branded Joseph McPartland a disgrace to his regiment because he had an anxiety order despite not serving on extreme operations.

“It is very, very wrong to brand a man with a mental illness a disgrace because he might never have been at war or he was dishonestly discharged from the Army for whatever reason. Mental illness isn’t just reserved for people who have seen war.

“He accepts he was present and his reaction calls for an explanation. He ran because he has mental health issues that make him panic. He was motivated to run out of irrational panic, backed by his anxiety you know exists – not because of his involvement in cocaine.”

Nigel Edwards, defending Baveridge, who was branded the “brains” behind the conspiracy, said the majority of his client’s correspondence with the other defendants were discussions about dog breeding.

He said the 30-year-old dog breeder had no idea his friends had been arrested when he left the UK for Germany for business matters and urged jurors to “take a step back”.

Mr Edwards said: “Take a step back and put the pieces together. There was no evidence Mr Baveridge knew any arrests or raids were going on. He said in the days surrounding the alleged deal, what he was doing was spending his time with the dogs, obtaining dog food and steroids.”

He added text messages referring to “half a box”, which an expert claimed to mean half a kilo of cocaine, instead referred to dog steroids and the reason Baveridge kept two phones was to avoid debts he owed to catalogues.

Baveridge and Stubbs, of Pemberton Road, Newton Aycliffe, Howe, of no fixed abode, and McPartland 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.