Guyhirn man the key player in �1 million plan to drop drugs into Britain from a light aircraft
NINE drug dealers – including the gang leader from Guyhirn- planned to smuggle �1 million of drugs into Britain via air drops from light aircraft. But, as Nottingham Crown Court heard yesterday, their plans were thwarted following an extensive police inve
NINE drug dealers - including the gang leader from Guyhirn- planned to smuggle �1 million of drugs into Britain via air drops from light aircraft.
But, as Nottingham Crown Court heard yesterday, their plans were thwarted following an extensive police investigation that stretched from Wisbech to Belgium.
The eight-month covert operation, which was supported by the East Midlands Special Operations Unit (EMSOU), led to the arrest of an organised crime group planning the daring drugs drop.
Specialist officers, using high-tech surveillance techniques, gradually pieced together the cogs of a criminal network that ran through Lincolnshire, Nottinghamshire, Derbyshire, Cambridgeshire and into mainland Europe.
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This culminated in an operation to arrest the organised crime gang on August 20 last year.
At Nottingham Crown Court, eight of the 13 defendants were convicted of a variety of charges including conspiracy to supply class A drugs and POCA offences.
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One of the gang was convicted in separate proceedings in Belgium earlier this year.
The jury returned no verdict (hung jury) in relation to charges of conspiracy to supply class A drugs on four of the defendants.
At the heart of the plan was 50-year-old builder Marcus Brown, of Inlay's Corner, Guyhirn.
He was found guilty of conspiracy to supply with Troy Naylor, 41, of Chesterfield, and another man who cannot be named for legal reasons.
Brown was convicted with wife Susan, 51, of the same address, of concealing criminal property, after they hid �41,500 in cash behind a radiator.
They were also convicted of using �54,000 of criminal property to meet living expenses.
Robert Bills, 51, of High Grove, Long Sutton, was also in the dock and admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Another Wisbech man, Robert Broderick, 46, also appeared in court and admitted to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.
Detective Chief Inspector Mark Hosty said: "This investigation stopped a massive amount of drugs coming into the Midlands and the convictions of these criminals have prevented them becoming international drug smugglers, which was clearly their aim."
Lincolnshire Police offered this background to the investigation that culminated in yesterday's convictions.
By January 2008 Lincolnshire Police and EMSOU had built up an intelligence profile on Marcus Brown.
It was apparent that he was involved in organised crime - specifically drug distribution and dealing.
He regularly visited offenders from a number of other crime gangs and he had set up a network of couriers in South Lincolnshire, North Cambridgeshire, Nottinghamshire and Derbyshire.
These couriers in turn supplied a further network of street dealers.
The intelligence picture on Brown was completed in February 2008 when he was evidenced meeting with George Henry Rogers, from Bristol - a convicted drug supplier.
Their meeting involved negotiations over a class A and B drug deal.
Rogers was arrested in March last year in possession of a substantial amount of amphetamine.
He is now serving a prison sentence in relation to the matter.
At this point the Lincolnshire Police investigation, supported by EMSOU and led by Detective Chief Inspector Mark Hosty, was launched.
With Brown under surveillance, the team was able to identify his key associates and how he ran his operation.
The first key breakthrough was the discovery of his drug stash at Sandbank, near Wisbech. This is an isolated rural location on the road between Guyhirn and Wisbech, near his home, Mast Lodge, Selwyn Corner, Guyhirn. Images obtained by the team show the Brown depositing and removing blocks of cocaine at the site. Between May and August last year the couple moved approximately 15oz of cocaine, with a street value of about �15,000 to the stash. Photos of the Browns' home and car demonstrate the lifestyle their crime was supporting. When his property was finally raided �41,500 in cash was found hidden behind a radiator.
The team continued to watch Brown. They learned his close associate and courier, Richard Osbourne, from Nottingham, had rented a property at 71a Main Street, Long Eaton.
This was being run as a brothel by Tessa Emmott, who also acted as a courier.
And on June 3 more of Brown's couriers came into the frame.
Brown and Osbourne instructed Robert Broderick, from Wisbech, Cambs and Robert Bills, from Long Sutton in Lincolnshire to collect about two kilos of heroin, worth about �240,000 in Bradford.
Images obtained by officers show Brown, Osbourne, Broderick and Bills at the brothel in Long Eaton prior to the drug collection in Bradford.
Officers intercepted and arrested Broderick and Bills on their way back from the Bradford pickup on the A1 at Elkesley in North Nottinghamshire on June 3.
Shortly after this, the investigating team became aware of "the plane conspiracy" - a plan to transport large quantities of class A drugs by light aircraft and air-drop them in Britain. The drugs would then be distributed through Brown's well-established network.
Brown, Osbourne, Osbourne's courier Troy Naylor, from Chesterfield and known smuggler Thomas Murray, from South Normanton, met with Eric Van Gelder, a Belgian drug supplier.
They went to the Half Way House and The Red Lion Pub in Challock, Kent and then to the 2 Teas caf� in Catford - a regular haunt.
The plan, to transport between 20 and 80 kilos of cocaine, was discussed and a dummy run was planned for June 29. Two pilots were lined up to fly the plane (these had no verdict returned and may face re-trial and cannot be named).
Investigating officers filmed the dummy run, which actually transported a large army kit bag of sugar, which was thrown from the plane into a clearing.
The team then prepared themselves for the real thing - which was planned for July 6.
Photos show the light aircraft drop-off, the route of the plane and Brown and Osbourne collecting the package.
In a bizarre twist of fate, working independently, Belgian police seized 22 kilos of cocaine, worth �1m on the streets, at Antwerp Docks the next day.
It turned out that this was the stash that was due to be airdropped. Van Gelder fled to Britain to join Brown and Osbourne.
This setback did not deter the gang for on August 7 Troy Naylor, from Chesterfield, visited the Browns at their home to collect 5.5 ounces of cocaine to distribute in Derbyshire.
Officers decided to close the net.
They arrested Naylor at the Saxondale roundabout (A52/A46).
Osbourne, Murray and Van Gelder panicked when they could not contact them. They went to Naylor's home in Chesterfield to try and find him.
By August 20 the team had sufficient evidence to arrest the rest of the members of the organised crime group.
Brown and Osbourne were arrested in England on their return from China.
Van Gelder was extradited and is now serving a prison sentence in Belgium in relation to the seizure at Antwerp docks.