More than £20million in cocaine has been seized in one of the largest inland drug busts in British history.
An organised crime gang who conspired to supply more than £20million in cocaine across the North of England – including Lancashire – have been jailed.
Jamie Simpson and three of his gang – Clare Smith, Andrew Daniels and Dean Brettle – have been sentenced to a total of almost 35 years after they loaded £20 million worth of cocaine into a van in Rochester, Kent, to be transported to Warrington.
The gang were involved in a plot to supply cocaine across the North of England including Warrington, Carlisle, Preston and Manchester.
But on the evening of August 2, 2018, Simpson and his gang had been travelling back to Warrington in a car and a van which contained 186kg of cocaine.
As they approached Warrington and reached the M6 northbound between junction 19 and 20, the gang were intercepted and stopped by Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit.
Both vehicles were searched and officers soon discovered a multi-million pound haul of cocaine hidden inside the van.
The van (pictured) had been specially adapted to conceal the drugs by being packed and placed into large metal draws hidden beneath a false floor.
The colossal seizure, under the control of leader Simpson, came while the Serious and Organised Crime Unit were leading a 14-month covert investigation - code-named Operation Dreadnought - into another Warrington based organised crime group.
This OCG was headed by Jamie Oldroyd, owner of ProLease – a vehicle leasing company in Warrington – who was sentenced to 14 years and three months as part of a previous trial (which concluded on Wednesday May 1, 2019).
Oldroyd and Simpson were at the highest level of their respective criminal gangs and were convicted for conspiring together to supply cocaine on a number of occasions.
The court heard how Oldroyd’s gang were an extremely well organised team of criminals who would go to great lengths to conceal their criminality and minimise the chances of being exposed.
Their underhand tactics, which failed to stop them being detected by police, involved disposing of mobile phones, using messaging applications to communicate and regularly changing vehicles.
Oldroyd alone was seen driving up to 17 different cars throughout the operation.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, from the Serious and Organised Crime Unit, said: "This operation has not only resulted in the largest haul of cocaine being seized in the history of Cheshire but also the largest national in land seizure.
“We have wiped out two organised crime groups, preventing them as well as other gangs from gaining extreme profits and in doing so have protected our communities along with vulnerable adults from criminals who bring with them intimidation, exploitation and violence.
“To transport such a colossal amount of cocaine you have got to be a confident, arrogant and greedy individual.
"Simpson has proved that he is exactly that and this is what led him to believe he could bring illegal drugs into Cheshire without being disrupted.
“Despite Oldroyd’s organised crime group going to great lengths to conceal their criminality and avoid being caught we were always going to be one step ahead.
“I want the public to be reassured that protecting our local communities by pursuing organised criminals will continue to be at the forefront of our priorities.
“We know there are local people in our community who are living in fear of these criminals and we're aware there are residents who know gangs are operating in their area.
"To those who engage in what they see as casual drug use, or show apathy towards it, I would highlight the misery these groups bring to the streets in order to maintain their profit margins.
“I hope successful operations like these reassure the public that we do act on information you provide and by continuing to come forward you can help protect your community and disrupt serious and organised crime."
Police are urging people to understand the signs of serious and organised crime and to report it to Lancashire Police on 101 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555. 111.