Seven on trial over alleged cocaine conspiracy in Sunderland

Seven people have gone on trial accused of taking part in an organised conspiracy to bring cocaine and other illegal drugs to Sunderland and East Durham.

Tuesday, 13th March 2018, 7:13 am
Updated Tuesday, 13th March 2018, 7:15 am
Teesside Crown Court
Teesside Crown Court

The seven, and others not before the court, are alleged to have used a network of safe houses to cut, store, and distribute cocaine bought in bulk.

Cash from the dealing was stored elsewhere to minimise losses in the event of detection, a jury at Teesside Crown Court was told.

“This case concerns a series of conspiracies to supply cocaine, ecstasy, and cannabis in the East Durham and Sunderland areas,” said Peter Makepeace QC, prosecuting.

Sign up to our daily newsletter

The i newsletter cut through the noise

“It arises out of a surveillance led operation by Durham Police which was codenamed Operation Sidra.

“The operation identified an organised supply chain centred around these defendants and others.

“The chain of supply involved many different people with many different roles, some more high profile than others.

“All playing a vital role are the importer, the warehouse keeper, the processor, the distributor, the wholesaler and the retailer.”

The court heard large quantities of high purity cocaine was brought into the area by Andrew Blake, assisted by Christian Winter and Ian Ramshaw.

Detectives identified at least four ‘safe houses’ used by the gang for the storing, bulking out, and distributing of the drugs, the jury was told.

•A house in Fletcher Crescent, Houghton, owned by defendants Michael and Margaret Murphy.

•A house in Cambridge Road, Silksworth, Sunderland, lived in by defendant Ian Ramshaw.

•A house in Osborne Avenue, South Shields, home of defendant Christian Winter.

•A house at Carlton Crescent, Farringdon, Sunderland, lived in a by a woman who had previously operated a safe house when she lived in Fletcher Crescent.

Mr Makepeace said that as their cocaine network grew, those operating it branched out into other drugs.

“Blake, Ramshaw, and two other men went into the sourcing, processing and sale of ecstasy tablets,” Mr Makepeace added.

“They bought pill presses to allow them to manufacture on a massive scale with their own branded tablets.

“The Murphy family branched out into cannabis production.

“When their home address was searched a relatively small scale but highly professional cannabis farm was found in the loft.”

The gang kept their money in separate locations from the drugs to minimise the risk of losing everything if they were raided, the court heard.

“Andrew Blake found the perfect partner in crime in his father Thomas Blake,” said Mr Makepeace.

“When the police raided the home of Thomas Blake more than £100,000 of drug contaminated cash was recovered from a secret compartment hidden at the bottom of a shelving unit.

“Thomas Blake was found busy trying to stash the cash in his pockets when he realised the police were raiding his address.”

The following all deny conspiracy to supply class A drugs between March, 2014 and June, 2015.

Ian Ramshaw, 32, of Cambridge Road, Silksworth, Christian Winter, 50, of Osborne Avenue, South Shields, Andrew Blake, 40, of Regent Court, South Hetton, David Murphy, 38 of Avonmouth Road, Farringdon, Sunderland, Michael Murphy, 63, and Margaret Murphy, 61, both of Fletcher Crescent Houghton.

The Murphys deny conspiracy to supply class B drugs.

Thomas Blake, 77, of Jubilee Square, South Hetton, denies converting criminal property.

The trial is expected to last up to eight weeks.