A man hired his best friend as a ‘smackhead’ to collect a delivery of class A drugs worth over £3 million as part of a multi-million pound conspiracy.
Roy Evans, 34, was acting as a ‘lieutenant’ to a member of an organized crime group when a shipment from the Netherlands was intercepted by Border Force officials in May 2020.
After inspecting the 12 boxes, they found 50 blocks of heroin, seven blocks of cocaine and a block of cannabis.
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The estimated street value was £3.4 million, Manchester Crown Court heard.
The shipment was addressed to a unit on Cobden Street in Salford, and officers from Greater Manchester Police later made a controlled delivery.
Shortly after the boxes had been dropped off, David Astley, 35, was spotted opening them and was arrested at the scene.
He was found in possession of an electric fob which was used to activate the shutters at the unit, prosecutor Jonathan Dickinson said.
“He had two mobile phones which were also seized and examined, and the mobile phone data showed that the burner phone had received 37 calls over a 36-hour period from a phone number attributed to this defendant (Evans),” he said.
“Evans was arrested at Stepping Hill hospital and his phone was seized.
“Cell site information showed that his phone had been in the vicinity of the unit on Cobden Street on May 26.”
On May 27, Evans changed his phone number and sent a group message to his family and friends informing them of his new number – the same day as the controlled delivery, the prosecutor added.
Also on his phone were 290 voice recordings, 178 of which were between Evans and Sufryn Butt, nicknamed ‘Suf’, who is thought to be currently living in Dubai and involved in organized crime, the court heard.
The recordings showed the men discussing their attempts to locate Astley after his arrest, the delivery, which prison he was going to, changing his solicitors to ‘Suf’s’ solicitors and the recruitment of Astley by Evans.
Mr Butt added that Astley was asked to recruit a ‘joey, a nitty, a shot, or a smackhead’, somebody that was ‘expendable’, it was said.
Following his arrest, Evans was interviewed and gave a prepared statement stating he had known Astley for ’12 years’ and they were ‘best friends’.
He said that after leaving the army he had reacquainted with Astley, who was ‘struggling and homeless’, who moved in with Evan’s sister, and he then drove him to the unit on May 25 as he wanted to ‘collect some USB cables’.
He later accepted recruiting Astley to take the delivery on behalf of Butt, but stated he was unaware it included drugs.
“On July 3, police obtained a security download of Mr Evan’s mobile phone and discovered the phone had been used to make several internet inquiries, including ‘Grand Power 9mm’ and ‘Slovakian Pistol’”, Mr Dickinson continued.
“On June 2, police received a 999 call reporting that two firearms had been found in the loft of an address on St Johns Walk.
“After a search of the premises, no discovery was made.
“However, at the same time of Evans being arrested, other officers went to an address at The Bentleys in Stockport, where he was residing with his partner.
“Whilst searching the airing cupboard, officers found a Berghaus rucksack containing a pistol shaped object, and a white bin liner in which they found a black pistol.”
A firearms officer later confirmed these were a black self-loading pistol, namely a Grand Power SRO, with a number of rounds in the magazine; and a second pistol, dubbed a ‘Bruni Gap BBM’.
In a further police interview he denied the offenses were ‘anything to do with’ him and claimed he would not be ‘forensically linked’ to them.
However, in further messages between Evans and Mr Butt, Mr Butt said: “I’m going to get af***ing thing dropped off with you yeah… Just lock it off for us fam… bad boy artillery… bad boy artillery. ”
He later described an item as a “machine… A Skorpz watch when you see it” and an “absolute brand spanker, see through clips and all that”, which prosecutor said was a reference to a ‘Skorpion’ machine gun.
Evans was described as a ‘custodian’ of the gun, and said due to his background of firearms in the army and his lack of hesitation to take possession of the machine gun show they were to be used in crime.
The prosecutor added that four children belonging to Evan’s partner were in the house at the time the guns were seized.
Evans was said to have no previous convictions.
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Mitigating, his lawyer Gemma Maxwell said: “It’s accepted he involved Mr Astley in the operation, but he did not have any influence on those above him in the chain.
“He served in the Armed Forces and did a number of tours, including in Afghanistan.
“In reading his psychiatric report, he did not react well to civilian life and suffers with PTSD.
“I bitterly regrets involving Mr Astley.”
Sentencing Evans, Judge Timothy Smith said: “Those who deal in drugs expect to make money from the weak and most vulnerable in society.
“It brings about misery and despair, and very often death to those who use and become addicted to drugs and spawns an ever increasing cycle of crime.
“Those who are involved, do so knowing full well they play a real part in the dark and wicked trade.”
Speaking of the gun offences, he said: “In Manchester, the use of guns is all too prevalent.
“They are used to maim, terrorize and intimidate, and that’s why criminals want them and use them.
“They are used with lethal force by rival gangs who like to enforce their own territory, usually driven by the drug dealing trade.”
Evans of no fixed abode, was found guilty of being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of class A and B drugs and possession of two firearms and ammunition and was jailed for 20 years.
David Astley, 35, of Smithy Grove, Ashton-under-Lyne, pleaded guilty to being concerned in the fraudulent evasion of a prohibition on the importation of Class A and B drugs, and was previously jailed for eight years.
Detective Inspector Rebecca McGuigan, from GMP’s Salford district, said: “Today’s result is significant, we have successfully disrupted the distribution of drugs onto the streets of Greater Manchester, which could have destroyed relationships and wrecked the lives of not only drug users, but those engaged in the illicit supply chains.
“Furthermore two viable firearms and ammunition have been removed from the streets, and the hands of criminals.
“This type of organized criminality will not be tolerated, and thanks to excellent detective work from officers across multiple districts, Roy Evans and David Astley have received significant terms of imprisonment.
“I would like to thank all the officers involved for their hard work, in particular Detective Constable Robert Shakespeare from GMP’s Stockport district and DC Jon Shaw from GMP’s Salford district, who worked tirelessly to link Evans to the drugs shipment and gather evidence.
“I hope this sentence makes it absolutely clear that criminals can’t act like this, and expect to get away with it.
“I urge anyone considering partaking in this criminality to seriously think about the consequences of doing so, because we will find you, and hold you accountable.”
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