450 statements, 100 mobile phones, six bullets and two cars: How Sunderland detectives brought Tony Trott and criminal gang to justice

The burnt-out Mitsubishi Pajero
The burnt-out Mitsubishi Pajero

While Tony Trott and his gang are now behind bars, the team of detectives who worked to bring them to book have pledged their task goes on.

In the aftermath of a case that saw four men jailed for 68 years, Northumbria Police says cracking organised networks is among its top priorities to stem the flow of the underground drugs trade and its links to other offending, from fraud to the sex trade and coercion.

The Mitsubishi Pajero (top of image) in Craigshaw Square at the time of the shooting

The Mitsubishi Pajero (top of image) in Craigshaw Square at the time of the shooting

It was a report of gun shots being fired and a disturbance elsewhere in the city that were the starting blocks in a complex inquiry and which later led officers to Craigshaw Square.

Related: 'Sunderland is a safer place': Detective who helped put Tony Trott and underworld accomplices behind bars for 68 years

Within hours, a major inquiry was under way as officers pieced together the events leading both up to and after the moments six bullets were shot through the front window of the semi-detached home in Hylton Castle at 2.20am on Monday, September 12, 2016.

At its close, the investigation, which brought together a core team of seven detectives, amassed 450 statements, and collected data from 100 mobile phones, CCTV footage from 50-plus locations and information from Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) systems.

Damage caused to the house in Craigshaw Square after the shooting

Damage caused to the house in Craigshaw Square after the shooting

Phone activity mapped out the gang’s movements, while the discovery of the burnt-out getaway Mitsubishi Pajero and back-up Peugeot, which were placed at the scene of the Craigshaw Square shooting, proved crucial factors.

Detective Sergeant Angus Grassie said: "One officer did an outstanding job of pulling together all the CCTV from probably in excess of 50 separate locations.

"There was hundreds and hundreds of hours of footage, which that single officer pored over during six or seven months, which proved to be essential in this case of investigating these defendants.

"ANPR also proved to be a critical element, combined with CCTV, in placing these three men, Trott, Ratcliff and Barnett, and their contact right up to 2.19am."

While the key players were arrested within days, the job went on to gather evidence to put before a court.

"The team has done an exemplary job, they pulled together and really worked hard and I’m really proud of them,” Det Sgt Grassie said.

"They worked under very difficult circumstances."

He says the inquiry to find the weapon used in the shooting goes on, but stressed criminal firearms use in the North East is infrequent.

"Gun crime is not endemic as a problem in Northumbria Police’s areas, the use of guns is rare, but is dealt with extremely seriously and as the sentencing of this case has shown in the way the courts have handled it," he said.

"Anyone concerned in the access of a fire arm or is considering using them in a crime, in all honesty, they are going to get clattered by Northumbria Police.

"We will be relentless in pursuing them."

Trott, 30, of South Terrace, Southwick, was sentenced for possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life, and conspiracy to supply cocaine.

He must serve a minimum of 20 years before he can be considered for parole, with an extended licence following his release.

Barnett, 42, of Throston Grange, Hartlepool, was sentenced for conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life.

Ratcliff, 35, of no fixed abode, was sentenced for conspiracy to possess a firearm with intent to endanger life, conspiracy to supply cocaine, and assault occasioning actual bodily harm.

He was told he must serve 18 years before being allowed to apply for parole, as well as given an extended licence term.

Steabler, 41, of Thorndale Road, Thorney Close, was sentenced for assisting an offender, and for being concerned in the supply of cocaine and jailed for 35 months.