October 31, 2019 4.16 pm This story is over 53 months old

Six jailed after undercover cops crack Skegness drugs case

The seaside town had been ‘plagued’ by the drugs this gang was selling

Six people have been jailed for a combined 21 years in prison after undercover cops cracked a Skegness drugs gang.

The officers carried out test purchases of the Class A drug over several months in the summer of 2017 after targeting street dealers in the resort.

Andrew Peat, prosecuting, told Lincoln Crown Court how police identified 33 trips to collect drugs from Leicester and supply it to the streets of Skegness.

Mr Peat said Paul Steven Wilkinson, 41, was beyond doubt the “head of operations” for the Skegness conspiracy and would either go himself or arrange the trips to Leicester.

The heroin was then passed on to Skegness street dealers who included Derek Hicks, Keith Count and Aaron Verheul, the court heard.

Lauren Cooper.

Hicks, 44, who was involved in three test purchases by undercover officers, had a direct line to Mr Wilkinson and vice-versa, Mr Peat added. He also admitted a charge of burglary.

Verheul, 37, who was described as a “trusted dealer,” and Count, 37, were also involved in six test purchases by undercover officers.

Lauren Cooper, 32, and Jonathon Thompson, 49, were each involved in one test purchase by undercover officers.

Ashley Johnson, 33, was also involved as a “conduit” for street deals, the court was told, and John Flannery, from Great Yarmouth, and Alexander Tapsfield, were used as drivers.

Jonathan Thompson.

Flannery, 58, drove Wilkinson to Leicester on four occasions to collect drugs, and Tapsfield, 30, was involved in 12 journeys either as a driver, passenger or facilitator of a vehicle.

The heroin supplied from Leicester was of a relatively modest strength with a purity of between 9% and 16%.

Mr Peat said: “All of the defendants with the exception of Johnson were involved in an arrangement to supply heroin on the streets of Skegness during the Summer of 2017.”

In mitigation, the court was told many of the defendants had existing drug habits which were exploited by Wilkinson.

Aaron Verheul.

Passing sentence Judge John Pini QC said the citizens of Skegness had been “plagued” by street dealing of Class A drugs.

Judge Pini told the court: “Operation Hazelbrook was mounted by Lincolnshire Police to deal with the problem.

“Police deployed undercover officers at considerable risk to themselves on to the streets of Skegness.

“They are deserving of the highest praise.”

Alexander Tapsfield.

Hicks, of Church Road South, Skegness, was jailed for four years and eight months.

Count, of Phillip Grove, Skegness, was jailed for four years and six months.

Verheul, of Morris Gardens, Skegness, was jailed for four years.

Tapsfield, of West End, Spilsby, was sentenced to two and half years imprisonment.

Derek Hicks.

Thompson, of Ida Road, Skegness, was jailed for 16 months.

Cooper, of Richmond Drive Skegness, was sentenced to three years and ten months imprisonment.

She was also convicted of assaulting Ashley Johnson by repeatedly striking him over the head in the street with a claw hammer in March 2018 after accusing him of being a “grass.”

The court heard Mr Johnson was struck up to ten blows and went to hospital with a bloodied head but refused to assist the police.

Keith Count.

Police found Cooper hiding naked in her kitchen cupboard after removing her bloodied clothes and the hammer.

Wilkinson, Johnson and Flannery will be sentenced at a separate hearing later this month.

Senior investigating officer Detective Chief Inspector Richard Myszczyszyn said: “I would like to pay tribute to the Officers who have supported this investigation. Their work was meticulous, diligent and at times dangerous, as is the nature of going undercover.

“The sentences mean that the streets of Skegness will be that bit safer and it’s a clear message that we don’t tolerate drugs in our communities.”