As a former cage fighter, who is considered one of County Durham’s most wanted fugitives, is arrested in Eastern Europe, we look back at when he was first detained on drugs charges.

Following 18-months on the run, Darren Towler, formerly of Consett, was arrested near the Croatian and Serbian border, on Saturday, August 5.

The 42-year-old offender was said to have orchestrated a sophisticated drugs conspiracy which saw criminals smuggle millions of pounds worth of drugs into County Durham from Merseyside.The Northern Echo:

These pictures were captured when he was first arrested on the drugs charges which led to his conviction.

The Northern Echo was invited to witness part of a series of raids on the morning of March 20, 2018, when police arrested 14 people. 

Read more: County Durham gang led by cage fighter Darren Towler flooded area with cocaine and amphetamine

The co-ordinated operation targeted suspected Class A drug dealers across County Durham. 

At 6am on the Monday morning, teams of officers swooped on properties in Consett, Burnopfield, Shotley Bridge, Leadgate, Bishop Auckland, Spennymoor, Ushaw Moor and Stanley.

The Northern Echo:

These photographs were taken during the raid on the house of Towler in the Consett area, where he was arrested and led away in handcuffs.  

Simultaneous raids were also carried out at the time at addresses in the Merseyside area and in Jarrow on behalf of Durham Constabulary.

The Northern Echo: Police arrest Darren Towler in a raid on home in the Consett area in March 2018

More than 150 officers and support staff were involved in the operation, which resulted in 11 men aged between 24 and 44 three women aged between 37 and 61 arrested.

All were detained at the time on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs and some for money laundering.

Read more: Wanted Consett drug kingpin Darren Towler arrested in Europe

The raids were part of Operation Sledgehammer, the force’s long-running campaign to tackle serious and organised crime.

The Northern Echo: Police arrest Darren Towler in a raid on home in the Consett area in March 2018

Temporary Detective Chief Inspector Nicola Lawrence, from Durham Constabulary, said at the time: “This operation has been an overwhelming success.

"The raids are the culmination of months of hard work and investigation which would not have been possible without the support of local people who have come forward with valuable pieces of intelligence.

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“I hope today’s action sends out a clear message that we will not tolerate criminality of this nature in our force area, and we will take action to dismantle, disrupt and destroy these networks.”The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo:


The Northern Echo:

The Northern Echo: Police arrest Darren Towler in a raid on home in the Consett area in March 2018