EIGHT men who helped supply cocaine and ecstasy across a North-East town were jailed yesterday.

They were convicted after one of the biggest Durham Police operations, Operation Karaman, which netted drugs worth more than £150,000 in Darlington.

The undercover operation began at the beginning of 2003 and ended in series of raids last year.

Roger Bowers, 27, of Kexwith Moor Close, Darlington, a former boxer who represented England, was sentenced to six years and eight months at Teesside Crown Court. He had previous convictions for drugs and violence.

Bowers was responsible for four consignments of ecstasy - 20,000 tablets - sold to police.

Shaun Robson, 30, an ex-Royal Navy serviceman of Inglewood Road, and Alistair Douglas, 32, of Duke Street, were each jailed for four years and three months.

Robson, was also given a 12-month concurrent sentence after pleading guilty to a charge of selling or transferring a shotgun to a person without a registered firearms licence.

Paul Wilson, 25, of Willow Road, was sentenced to five years and one month.

Matthew Pybus, 27, of Oxford Street, a doorman who sold ecstasy in bulk, received four years and three months.

Anthony Hall, 40, of Station Road; Mark Starkey, 32, of Snipe Lane, Hurworth Moor; and John Nicholson, 37, of Estoril Road South, were jailed for four years and three months, three years and two months, and three years respectively.

Two others arrested and charged by police, Darren Paul Sheen, 26, of Haughton Road, and his former girlfriend, Claire Neary, 26, whose address has not been disclosed, will be sentenced at a later date.

All admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Judge John Walford paid tribute to the courage of the undercover officers, who made a series of large-scale purchases of cocaine and ecstasy at locations across the town after infiltrating the drugs network over a period of 18 months.

Detective Chief Inspector Neil Malkin said: "Organised crime is a priority for Durham Constabulary and we will do whatever we can to disrupt it.

"These men saw an opportunity for a business enterprise which became extremely lucrative for them, and it is now at an end."