Alleged drugs gang member ‘duped into smuggling hand grenades’, court hears


A man has told a jury he was duped into carrying two hand grenades away from an alleged drug gang leader’s flat.

Graham Wellings, 56, said he thought he had been handed cannabis after being summoned to the apartment in Stretford which was said to be the hub of a cocaine and heroin supply operation.

But a court heard how he was being watched by undercover cops as he cycled away – and was later found to be carrying two hand grenades in his rucksack.

The alleged drama happened on January 29 last year after police had already found a gun and two hand-grenades in a storage cupboard of another apartment at Milton Close, a block of flats in Gorse Hill, Stretford.

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The army bomb disposal squad was called and some 400 residents had to be evacuated.

With police descending on the area, alleged gang leader Nathan Morgan, 37, was becoming ‘increasingly concerned and paranoid’ and used an alleged drug dealing associate, Gary Davies, to summon Mr Wellings to collect two other grenades, according to the prosecution.

They said Morgan had called Mr Wellings to his flat to ‘dispose of criminal items’.

On the third day of his trial, Mr Wellings told a jury at Minshull Street Crown Court, sitting at Stockport magistrates’ court, that he agreed to help Morgan so he could wipe out a £400 drugs debt he owed to Mr Davies.

Graham Wellings, who admitted a heroin and cocaine habit was spiraling out of control at the time, told the jury: “I had been paid that day. I had some money to give Gary Davies.

“I was at home and he’s phoned me. He’s called me a few times. In the end I answered and he said ‘are you coming around? I want you to pick this thing up from Nathan’s blah blah blah’.”

Bomb disposal at Milton Close

Pressed by his barrister John Kennerley, the defendant accepted he knew by then that some of Milton Close had been cordoned off and that the bomb squad had been called to the scene, as he had read stories about it on the MEN website.

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He said he agreed he would go to Mr Davies’ flat at Derwent Road, also in Stretford, alleged to be used for drug dealing. The Crown say an ‘industrial drug press’ was found there.

“I was going to go around that day because I owed him some money and had been paid that day. He’s asked me to go to Nathan’s,” said Mr Wellings.

The defendant added: “He just said to go to Nathan’s to pick up some cannabis.”

He agreed this ‘fitted in’ with what he knew of Nathan Morgan who he said he knew was selling cannabis.

Asked if he thought at the time Mr Davies was telling him the truth, Mr Wellings said: “I just thought he was telling the truth. I didn’t think there was anything sinister to it all other than it was cannabis. I just thought he’s telling the truth and I was helping with some cannabis.

Police at the scene after a suspicious device was found in Stretford during the raid.

“I’m thinking it would come off the debt or squash the debt.”

He added: “I didn’t really fancy it because I knew there was a police presence. I said ‘nooo, Gary’ and he said ‘it’s only a little bit of cannabis – you will be ok – it’s not a problem’. “

Mr Wellings, when it was put to him that he had read the day before that police were in the area, said: “It made me worried, as I say. I didn’t think Nathan was involved with all that kind of thing, with what’s come to light about what he’s involved in. What was going on in that close, I didn’t think it was anything to do with him.”

He insisted Nathan Morgan had not told him the package contained something more dangerous than cannabis.

Asked what he would have said had he been told he was picking up hand grenades, Mr Wellings said: “I would have said ‘no way’. I would have been absolutely insane to go with everything the way it was, to go and pick up firearms or grenades with a big police presence.

When it was suggested to him that picking up cannabis was also a risk, he said: “Yes, it’s a risk but I just thought it’s just cannabis. I was taking a risk. I just thought it was only a couple of hundred pounds of class B, you know.”

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Mr Kennerley asked he defendant if he knew how to handle grenades.

Mr Wellings said: “You would have to be insane to go and take anything like that. The nearest thing I have seen to anything like that was in a film.”

The defendant said he took a bus to Mr Davies’ flat where he said he was handed an empty rucksack by Mr Davies. He said he left the apartment on a pushbike Mr Davies also provided.

He said Mr Davies told him Nathan Morgan wanted him to pick up some cannabis from Morgan’s flat at Milton Close.

Asked about a three second call he made to Nathan Morgan’s number while en route, Mr Wellings said he was ‘telling him I was coming’.

The defendant said he had been given Mr Morgan’s number by Mr Davies.

Bomb disposal officers at Milton Close

When he arrived, he said he pressed the buzzer and was allowed into the block of flats at Milton Close. Morgan came out of his flat, went into a cupboard and placed a carrier bag into the rucksack he was wearing, said the defendant.

“I just thought it was cannabis. It was only very light. I thought it was only a bit of cannabis. I knew it was a carrier bag of some sort but I didn’t see it, no. I was going to take it back to Gary’s,” he said.

Under cross-examination by Jamie Baxter, the prosecutor said he had been ‘foolish’ to agree to the task but he insisted only ‘vulnerable’ people were ever called on to move such items but ‘no-one of any note’.

He said he could not recall any conversation with Morgan as the package was handed over aside from ‘pleasantries’.

He denied a suggestion that his claim of a drug debt was a ‘convenient excuse’. He denied he was ‘an accomplished liar’.

Earlier, Mr Wellings said he lived at Milton Close from about 2008 but by the time of the raids he was living in Urmston.

Police Tactical Aid Unit and forensic officers search a property on Milton Close

He said Nathan Morgan didn’t live at Milton Close when he was there since 2008 but that he would see him around Gorse Hill.

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Mr Wellings said he had been a user of heroin and cocaine but had been clean until he relapsed in late 2020.

He said he was homeless for a period and then lived at Mr Davies’ flat at Derwent Road, who he said would sell and consume drugs. The defendant said he would purchase most of his drugs from him from Mr Davies.

The prosecution say there was an ‘industrial drug press’ in the flat. Mr Wellings said he knew his friend de el had a ‘so-called press’ but he had never seen it as it was tucked away in a corner and was covered up.

The jurors have previously been told about messages, uncovered by the police investigation, which Morgan was said to sent to alleged members of his gang as the raids unfolded that day.

In one, he is said to have written: “They are back creeping about. It’s madness… Seen two heading this way. F*** knows what’s going on.”

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In another he was said to have written: “Game over g!”

Graham Wellings, 56, of Church Road in Stretford, the only man in the dock, denies a charge that he conspired to possess explosives, namely two hand-grenades, with Nathan Morgan and Gary Davies with intent to endanger life or damage property.

Mr Wellings also denies two other charges that he conspired with the same two men to supply class A drugs, namely cocaine and heroin.

The jurors have been told Mr Davies had died during the proceedings.

Morgan has previously pleaded guilty to possessing the grenades and ammunition found in the cupboard, the court has heard.

Proceeding.




www.manchestereveningnews.co.uk

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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