Prosecutors face 'thousands and thousands' of phone numbers in case against eight defendants accused of drugs conspiracy

Police were faced with “thousands and thousands” of phone numbers as they investigated the spread of cocaine, a jury was told.
The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.
The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.

A forensic officer who dealt with them spent four days in the witness box at Teesside Crown Court as the Prosecution presented the evidence against eight men including some from Hartlepool, South Shields and East Durham in a drugs conspiracy case.

Detective Constable Neil Thompson, the officer in the case, answered questions about them from the prosecution and defence lawyers.

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He said: “In the course of this investigation thousands and thousands of telephone numbers have come up and it is not feasible or reasonable to check on all those numbers.”

He said that officers also sifted through bank statements of defendants to look at income and transactions.

The court heard one defendant, Darren Gates, who was recorded as unemployed by HMRC, was involved in buying and selling fishing boats for up to £37,000 and he was seen at times to be withdrawing thousands of pounds a day.

Det Con Thompson said that in February 2013 the sum of £6,000 was withdrawn from the man’s account, and the next day the remaining £25,000 was transferred to another account.

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A cheque for £17,000 was paid in and then withdrawn in stages.

He added: “There was no evidence about that.

”We have not been given any evidence about these monies.”

An envelope containing £7,000 in £20 notes was found in a white plastic bag with Alan Baines’ fingerprints on it, the court heard.

John Rose, defending a man who cannot be named for legal reasons, asked Det Con Thompson about the holiday plans of one of the officers involved in the TV programme Police Interceptors Sergeant Kevin Salter who was being filmed on the night.

Mr Rose said that Sgt Salter, now an inspector, had sent a note to the judge last month asking to be allowed to go on his planned holiday during the case.

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He was granted permission after handing a request letter to security staff at the court. Mr Rose said that the proper channel should have been through the officer in the case.

Mr Rose asked: “Did you know about it, otherwise he is breaching police procedure?

”He did quite well in the Police Interceptors programme and he has been promoted along the way, and yet he has sent a begging letter about his holiday to the judge.”

Det Con Thompson said: “A report has been made about it.”

Prosecutor Matthew Bean said when he opened the case that police seized cocaine worth more than £100,000 in swoops on two vans near Haswell Plough and Coxhoe in December 2015 and January 2016.

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Alan Baines, 33, of Meryl Gardens, Hartlepool, and Graham Wilding, 33, of Warren Road, Hartlepool, deny conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A between 2015 and 2016 alongside Gary Mitchell, 42, of Pinedale Drive, South Hetton; Stephen Horner, 24, of Frederick Terrace, South Hetton; Christopher Hickson, 35, of Gloucester Terrace, Haswell; Darren Gates, 49, of Chaucer Avenue, Biddick Hall, South Shields; Dean Pringle, 34, of Little Eden, Peterlee, and an eighth man, who cannot be named for legal reasons.