Stephen Lawrence death suspect Jamie Acourt jailed over South Shields drugs plot
A man who was suspected in the racist murder of Stephen Lawrence has been jailed for nine years for heading a Â£3 million drugs plot.
Jamie Acourt, 42, from Eltham, south-east London, has pleaded guilty at Kingston Crown Court to being a kingpin in the two-year conspiracy to sell cannabis resin.
His 43-year-old brother, Neil Acourt, has already been jailed for more than six years over the scheme which moved about 750kg of the drug with an estimated street value of around £3 million.
Daniel Thompson, 28, of Rubens Avenue, South Shields, was also jailed for four years and two months at Kingston Crown Court last year after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply a Class B drug between January 2014 and February 2016.
Jamie Acourt spent more than two years on the run, living in Spain under the alias Simon Alfonzo, until his arrest in May.
Prosecutors believe both brothers were ringleaders who enlisted family members to the scheme that saw drugs transported between London and South Shields.
Jailing Jamie Acourt on Friday, Judge Peter Lodder said he was clearly a ringleader of the conspiracy, adding: "That you played a leading role is beyond doubt."
Both Acourts were arrested after the racist stabbing of black teenager Mr Lawrence by a gang of white men in Eltham in 1993 but have always denied involvement.
Jurors were earlier told of the historical allegation and warned they should solely consider the drug trial evidence.
Jamie Acourt, appearing in court sporting a man bun and beard, had denied conspiracy to supply a class B drug between January 2014 and February 2016 before changing his plea after the prosecution opened its case.
He fled the country after police raided a home he lived in with his partner and their two children in Bexley, south-east London, in February 2016.
He was arrested by armed officers as he left a gym in Barcelona on May 4 this year and extradited to Britain.
His brother was sentenced to six years and three months in February last year over the same conspiracy.
Recorder Paul Clements said the plot would "have kept the people of the Newcastle area in spliffs for many a long day".
It involved dozens of 600-mile round trips from London to South Shields, driving drugs up and bringing back cash.
The court heard the dealers moved more than 750kg, with the prosecution saying Jamie Acourt was involved in the supply of about 500kg with a street value of about £2.2 million.
Michael Holland, defending, said this amounted to about £500,000 wholesale.
He added: "It's a mitigating factor he withdrew from the conspiracy, albeit in circumstances where one of the co-conspirators has recently been arrested.
"He is a tradesman and builder and has sought contracts, some of which he has been successful in attaining.
"With his name it is not always easy to get the work he might otherwise get. The financial temptation must have been a real factor."
Seven men have now been convicted or found guilty over the conspiracy.
In 2012, Gary Dobson and David Norris were convicted at the Old Bailey of murdering Mr Lawrence and jailed for life.
Both Acourts were arrested shortly after the murder but neither was convicted.