A drug user in the trial of a South Shields man claims he was forced to store cocaine and a drugs press after getting into debt to a dealer.
Ian Ramshaw is on trial with six other men and women accused of dealing drugs from a network of ‘safe houses’ in Sunderland, Houghton, and South Shields.
Ramshaw, 32, admits taking cocaine, but claims he only agreed to become involved in storing drugs and the press after he was beaten with a baton and threatened with a shotgun.
Earlier in the trial, Christian Winter, 50, of Osborne Avenue, South Shields, denied being second in command of the drugs ring.
Giving evidence in his own defence, Ramshaw told a jury at Teesside Crown Court he lived at Cambridge Road, Silksworth, with his partner and children.
He said: “My father has a business doing roller shutter doors and shopfronts. I was working for him, and starting my own small business as a locksmith.
“I was getting problems with anxiety, and foolishly I started taking cocaine and drinking too much”.
Ramshaw said his cocaine consumption gradually increased.
He added: “I got into debt, I reckoned about £2,500.”
Ramshaw said his dealer didn’t press for repayment at first, but later started to put pressure on him.
“He asked me to store some drugs in exchange for reducing the debt,” said Ramshaw.
“I refused, I didn’t want the drugs in my house with my partner and young child there. Later on two men turned up and barged their way in.
“I now know who they are, but I’m not prepared to name them.
“One had a baton which he used on me, and the other was kicking my sides. They said if I didn’t pay the debt it would be worse next time.”
Ramshaw told the court the dealer later led him to a quiet lane where he was threatened with a shotgun by the same men who had beaten him.
“They showed me a picture of my partner,” said Ramshaw.
“They said they would shoot her and burn my house down if I didn’t do as I was told.
“I’m pleading not guilty because I was forced to do what I did.”
Ramshaw denies conspiracy to supply class A drugs between March, 2014, and June, 2015.
Winter, Andrew Blake, 40, of Regent Court, South Hetton, David Murphy, 38, of Avonmouth Road, Farringdon, Sunderland, and Michael Murphy, 63, and Margaret Murphy, 61, both of Fletcher Crescent, Houghton, also deny conspiracy to supply class A drugs
The Murphys also deny conspiracy to supply class B drugs.
Thomas Blake, 77, of Jubilee Square, South Hetton, denies converting criminal property.