Two Hartlepool men deny roles drug gang involved in the large-scale supply of cocaine across North East

Two men from Hartlepool have denied being part of a conspiracy to supply cocaine across the North East.

Thursday, 14th November 2019, 12:06 pm

Alan Baines, 23, of Meryl Gardens, Hartlepool, and Graham Wilding, 33, of Warren Road, deny conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A between 2015 and 2016 alongside Gary Mitchell, 42, of Pinedale Drive, South Hetton: Stephen Horner, 24, of Frederick Terrace, South Hetton; Christopher Hickson, 35, of Gloucester Terrace, Haswell; Darren Gates, 49, of Chaucer Avenue, Biddick Hall, South Shields; Dean Pringle, 34, of Little Eden, Peterlee, and an eighth man, who cannot be named for legal reasons.

Teesside Crown Court heard the arrests followed a Durham Constabulary investigation, code-named Operation Ebony.

Matthew Bean, prosecuting, told the jury Mitchell had been the gang’s ring-leader. Wilding, Baines and Bate had been the gang’s Hartlepool arm.

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The case was heard at Teesside Crown Court.

“The prosecution say they were involved in transporting large quantities of cocaine and cash,” said Mr Bean.

“They were in regular telephone contact with each other. The prosecution says Alan Baines was in charge of the Hartlepool operation.”

“The prosecution says the defendant Gary Mitchell played the lead role in organising this conspiracy. The prosecution says the conspiracy centred around South Hetton and a number of other villages, including Haswell and Haswell Plough.”

Bate, driving a van registered to Alan Baines, had been stopped on the A19 after visiting the Haswell Plough area and found to be in possession of just under a quarter of a kilo of 98 per cent pure cocaine, worth an estimated £75,000 by the time it had been ‘cut’ for distribution.

On the day Bate was arrested, there had been a number of calls between him, Baines and Wilding. He had also called Mitchell and calls were exchanged between Michell and Hickson and Hickson and Horner.

Mr Bean told the jury: “The business of buying and selling drugs IS a business, albeit an illegal one.”

The trial continues.

Three men have already been convicted of offences connected to the police enquiry into the case.

They are Ryan Gilling, 29, of Manor House Estate, Hutton Henry, who admitted supplying cocaine and while Liam Bate, 30, of Tenby Walk, Throston, Hartlepool, and Neil Dodsworth, 28, of Queensway, Shildon, who both admitted possession of cocaine with intent to supply.