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Three years on and series of court cases is concluded.

IT has taken almost three years for the catalogue of court cases linked to Operation Cobweb to reach their conclusion.

They began with two cases in 2012 - one following a high-speed police chase where 2kg of heroin worth PS90,000 was hurled from a moving car.

They finished with jail terms given yesterday to a Teesside runner and a woman who enjoyed the fruits of the network, which flooded Teesside with Class A drugs.

In between, Judge Simon Bourne-Arton QC jailed 22 people - from couriers to warehousemen, right-hand men, lieutenants and ringleaders - to a total of 177 years in May last year.

He said of the drugs conspiracy: "It was carried out in a determined and ruthless fashion. It was conceived and put into effect by professional and experienced criminals who were aiming to achieve a high financial reward."

The longest sentence of 16 years was given to Robert Hickman, 29, of Shepherdson Court, South Bank, the leader of the Teesside operation.

He unsuccessfully appealed his prison term, and arranged for drugs to be smuggled into prison, for which he received a concurrent six-year sentence.

Then in December, one of the gang's North-west "controllers in chief " Jeffrey Hanks was jailed for 22 years. Cobweb was Cleveland Police's largest-ever drugs investigation and has now put 31 people behind bars for 231 years.

It smashed a well-organised drugs ring, which was driven by dedicated criminals trafficking heroin, cocaine and crack cocaine using "dirty phones".

The drugs were transported from the Greater Manchester area to Teesside regularly, with payment in tens of thousands of pounds heading the other way. More than 100 trips were made between Teesside and Manchester transporting vast amounts of drugs and"dirty money". Officers seized almost 6.9kg in heroin, 2.26kg of cocaine, 437.5g of crack cocaine and more than 22kg in cutting agents. The recovered drugs were worth PS824,686, and PS127,966 cash was seized, but prosecutors said this was the "tip of the iceberg".

Police and prosecutors pieced together evidence including telephone communications analysis, observations, drug and cash seizures, vehicle sightings and Automatic Number Plate Recognition (ANPR) camera data.

Detective Sergeant Colin Helyer from Cleveland Police's organised crime unit said Cobweb was a protracted and complex covert investigation, one of the unit's largest-ever inquiries.

Police carrying out a raid as part of Operation Cobweb Police inside a property after |breaking in the door


Policce inside a property after breaking in the door

Police carrying out a raid as part of Operation Cobweb

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Publication:Evening Gazette (Middlesbrough, England)
Date:Jan 20, 2015
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