Detective tells of '˜two-tier' cocaine market at trial of South Shields man found with £110,000 in his car

A detective in the trial of a South Shields man found with £110,000 in his car told a jury of a '˜two tier' market for illegal drugs in the North East.

Wednesday, 16th January 2019, 5:00 am
Updated Thursday, 17th January 2019, 4:35 am
Eight men deny being part of a cocaine ring

Darren Gates, 48, of Chaucer Avenue, South Shields, denies conspiracy to supply class A drugs between August, 2015, and July 2016.

He is one of eight men on trial accused of being involved in an operation alleged to have been based in South Hetton and the surrounding villages but spreading as far south as Hartlepool and to South Shields.

The case is being heard at Teesside Crown Court.

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Teesside Crown Court earlier heard that the cash found in a Ford Galaxy car driven by Gates was found to be contaminated with the drug - suggesting it had been used in drug dealing.

Yesterday, Det Con Karl Hopps told the court he had worked for Durham Police for 22 years and in that time had taken part in many drugs investigations and undertaken numerous courses.

He said: “I consider myself qualified to comment on the drugs trade. In the case of class A drugs such as cocaine, there is almost a two-tier market.

“Lower quantities at lesser purity, higher quantities at higher purity. A street deal at 1g would sell for £60 to £100, depending on purity.

“Today that would be between 15% and 25% pure. That’s gone up a little over the last few years.

“It was more like 10% to 20% at the time of this case in 2015.”

Prosecutors allege 41-year-old Gary Mitchell of South Hetton was the leader of a ring of dealers.

The court heard Durham Police kept watch on the gang for months, observing meetings between members.

Investigators catalogued thousands of mobile phone calls and text messages between the gang.

The following also deny conspiracy to supply class A drugs between August, 2015, and July 2016.

Gary Mitchell, 41, of Pinedale, South Hetton, Steven Horner, 23, of Frederick Terrace, South Hetton, Christopher Hickson, 34, of Gloucester Terrace, Haswell, Dean Pringle, 34, of Little Eden, Peterlee. Graham Wilding, 32, of Warren Road, Hartlepool, and Alan Baines, 32, of Stockton Road, Hartlepool.

A Sunderland man, who cannot be named for legal reasons, denies the same charge.