Pair were part of heroin gang jailed for 30 years

A man and woman from South Tyneside have been jailed for their role in a major drug ring.

Craig Thompson and Joanne Wilson were part of a gang who received sentences totalling 30 years for conspiracy to supply heroin.
Craig Thompson and Joanne Wilson were part of a gang who received sentences totalling 30 years for conspiracy to supply heroin.

Craig Thompson, 31, of Hexham Avenue, Hebburn, was jailed for five years and Joanne Wilson, 29, of Everest Grove, Boldon, was jailed for two and a half years after admitting conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

The pair were part of a six-strong gang who were jailed for a total of 30 years at Teesside Crown Court after police smashed a heroin dealing ring.

The court heard the drugs were brought to South Tyneside from Merseyside for onward distribution to Teesside.

Police estimate the gang made hundreds of thousands of pounds from their operation ,and the court heard that when Wilson was arrested driving a Mercedes car, she was wearing a Rolex watch which had been valued at £11,000.

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Martin Towers, prosecuting, told the court: “This was a major conspiracy. Wilson was the personal assistant and boyfriend of the main conspirator, Andy Bennett, from Stockton.

“The warehouseman for the operation was Craig Thompson, who stored the drugs at his home in Hebburn.

“Wilson arranged for an address linked to her in Fellgate, Jarrow, to be used as a production facility, where the drugs were cut and the packages remade using hydraulic presses.

“The police operation was based on surveillance and analysis of mobile phones used by the gang.

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“This revealed a pattern of drugs being brought to South Tyneside from the Liverpool area, distributed on Teesside, and then money going back the other way to Merseyside.”

The court heard 2.24kg of heroin, with a street value of about £246,000 was found in Thompson’s house. He later said his biggest consignment was between 10kg and 15kg.

Andy Bennett, 25, of Benson Street, Stockton, was jailed for eight years: Sam Dowson, 24, of Ingleton Road, Stockton, was jailed for six years: Daniel Crone, 30, of Brook Cottages, Consett, was jailed for five years, after all admitting conspiracy to supply.

Haytham Baker, 22, of Saltney, Cheshire, was jailed for three and a half years after a trial.

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Ian West, for Thompson, said he was a vulnerable man who still lived with his mother and had become involved at the invitation of Wilson.

Duncan McReddy, for Wilson, said: “She is from a law-abiding family, and is finding separation from her nine-year-old son very difficult.

“She has been the subject of two violent relationships in the past.

“Mr Bennett seemed to her to be a kind and decent man who was making a good living from property and buying and selling cars.

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“Ms Wilson did not realise at first there was anything dodgy about him, although she accepts there came a time when she did realise where the money was coming from.”

Judge Peter Armstrong said: “This was a serious conspiracy. Those who assist dealers by warehousing drugs, and by running errands, play an important role because they help those doing the dealing avoid detection. Punishment must follow.”

Hearings later this year will determine if any of the gang has cash or assets which can be seized as the proceeds of crime.

After the case, Detective Sergeant John Fitzpatrick of Cleveland Police said: “The sentences indicate the courts take drugs dealing seriously.

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“People should not under-estimate the damage done to their communities by those who deal drugs.

All defendants were convicted of conspiracy to supply class A drugs between February and July last year.