THE Merseyside source of cannabis which was transported across the Pennines for sale in the North-East is finally behind bars after remaining at large for more than three years.

Scott Michael Walton failed to respond to bail by returning to a police station, in June 2016, as part of inquiries into the supply of drugs in the Hartlepool area.

Durham Crown Court heard that in his absence three other men were jailed for their part in the operation to supply cannabis and latterly heroin, from Liverpool in Hartlepool.

The courier was caught with a consignment of heroin, worth up to £25,000 in street sale values, on his return from Liverpool to his home in Shotton Colliery, in June 2015.

It was said to be his eleventh such cross-Pennine trip in seven months, based on number plate recognition and cell-site analysis of phone messages.

The courier was jailed for six years, in May last year, while two Hartlepool men received ten-month jail sentences each, in September 2017, for their part in selling the drug in the town.

Ian West, prosecuting, said it emerged the courier made and received a number of calls to ‘Scotty Pool’, Walton, between December, 2014, and June 2015.

Mr West said police raided Walton’s home in Liverpool, in June 2016, and found a working cannabis farm, with paraphernalia to aid growth, while the electricity meter was by-passed.

Expert analysis estimated at least 40 plants would mature, with a potential yield of up to £36,000.

Mr West told the court: “It’s clear that Walton wasn’t just sourcing what was supplied from his own grow.”

Walton declined to answer questions and, having failed to respond to his bail, was believed to have fled abroad for up to three years until he handed himself into a police station, in Liverpool, in June.

He was brought to the North-East for questioning and told police he absconded himself, “for personal reasons”, but refused to comment further.

Walton, 31, of Fitzpatrick Court, Liverpool, admitted conspiracy to supply and producing cannabis, plus abstraction of electricity.

Steven Reed, for Walton, said on the defendant’s account when he “absconded himself”, “for personal reasons”, he did not go abroad, but was living with a relative.

Judge Christopher Prince imposed a total prison sentence of five years and four months and told Walton: “You were actively involved in conspiracy to supply cannabis for a man who would bring it to the North-East.

“It’s not possible to quantify how much you supplied or how often.”

The judge also ordered forfeiture of a £3,500-valued Rolex watch seized from Walton, on arrest.