Secret recording that brought £2m drug ring to its knees

A secret recording was the final piece police needed to bring a £2m drug ring to its knees and send the gang to jail for almost 150 years.

Kingpin Colin Jones and his right-hand man David Rawling, both from Merseyside, even helped officers put their associates in jail by openly discussing their illicit business over the phone.

The pair had no idea police were listening in on their conversations, including one to hire a hitman to "do a double one" on a former gang member.

After hearing that officers had warned Lee Murray that his life was in danger, Jones and Rawling were heard on the recording discussing the possible ways they could have found out.

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While travelling in the car with another associate, Rawling hangs up the call with Jones and can be heard saying: "Someone's bugged mate, sum'in's bugged all round somewhere.

"Could be this f***ing car."

The recordings led to the demise of the 18-strong cartel which flooded North Wales, England and Scotland with £2m worth of Class A drugs.

On Friday, the gang were jailed for a total of 146 years and nine months as part of Operation Tide – the largest policing operation in North Wales' history.

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According to North Wales Live, during three days of sentencing at Mold Crown Court, Judge Niclas Parry said there was an "industrial nature" to their operation.

He said that the gang, made up of mostly members from Liverpool and Merseyside, had caused "incalculable harm" in the area they targeted.

Ringleader Jones, 49, from Liverpool but of no fixed abode, had planned the attack on Lee Murray – also known as Lee Go or Eko – a once trusted member of the County Lines gang who had managed the "Echo Line."

Surveillance image of David Rawling in Prestwich on 25/06/2019, North Wales Police hid a covert monitoring device in the blue Ford C-MAX vehicle he was using

Ill feelings had begun between Jones and Murray in January 2018 and had “clearly reached the tipping point” by June 2019, when his role was taken over by Rawling.

Jones later discovered Murray – who used to be "second in command" – had been pocketing some of his profits.

It was said that Murray had also not been answering calls to take orders for the "Echo Line" – specifically targeting the Connah's Quay area in Deeside and which netted thousands of pounds a day on average.

While the gang were under surveillance, Jones can be heard offering an alleged hitman payment and telling him: "Do a double one lad," which the prosecution claimed referred to a shooting someone twice in quick succession with a gun.

Jones and Rawling then took him on a “reconnaissance mission” and were heard saying “just shoot across” when they saw his victim's car pull up outside his girlfriend’s house.

One can be heard saying: "Before… one digit's rung nine on that thing yer off aren't ya?

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"And let's face it, they're phonin' an ambulance first aren't they?”

“Yeah, lots,” the alleged hitman replied.

But before the plan could be carried out, Merseyside Police issued Murray with a threat to life notice.

Image provided by North Wales Police Colin Joseph Jones, 49, from Liverpool was found guilty of conspiracy to cause grievous bodily harm to Lee Murray

Within hours, Jones was informed and is understood to have called Rawling, who was heard on the bugged device saying: "They've been to Echo's? Again? What the f***?.

"That's bad that lad. That's bad that, it was only yesterday we were talking about that as well you know.”

"F*** me, that's crazy that you know… Mad one that."

Rawling added: "Someone's bugged mate, sum'in's bugged all round somewhere. Could be this f***ing car."

Jones, described in court as a "shrewd operator" who "rarely got his hands dirty," was jailed for 21 years for conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm to Lee Murray and for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

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He headed the organised crime group, was a "large scale wholesale supplier” of Class A drugs to other organised crime groups throughout the UK, including Anglesey, Manchester, Liverpool, Devon, Cornwall, Aberdeen, Dumfries and other areas in Scotland.

His underworld career saw him use registered and unregistered phones, sweep premises for listening bugs, employ an encrypted device similar to those used by the military and security services and use lie detector tests on his fellow criminals costing £150 per test.

The "controlling mind" who sourced drugs and dealt with logistics, he owned two houses, three holiday homes in Whitehouse Leisure Park, Towyn and several high value cars. Some £80,000 in cash was found at his properties.

The gang had together sold in excess of £2million worth of drugs over a 20 month period, the jury heard.

"Right-hand man" David James Rawling, 38 of Lily Road, Litherland, Merseyside was jailed for 11 years for conspiring to cause grievous bodily harm and for conspiring to supply heroin, cocaine and amphetamine to parts of North Wales, England and Scotland between January 1, 2017 and September 6, 2020.

* Keith Furmedge, 50, of Elstead Road, Liverpool – jailed for 10-and-a-half years

* Jack William Jones, 28, of Rimrose Valley Road in Crosby, Merseyside – jailed for seven-and-a-half years

* Brothers Shaun Dooley, 30, of Bulford Road, Liverpool, and brother Steven Edward Dooley, 32, of Waresley Crescent, Liverpool, received nine years and eight years respectively

* Mum-of-four, Patricia Massingham, 50, of Studland Road, Liverpool was jailed for four years

* Barry Roche, 47, of no fixed address, was jailed for nine years

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* "Local sub dealer" Anthony Charles Fahy, 28, of Gongl Rhedyn, Cemaes Bay, Anglesey was jailed for for six-and-a-half years

* Edward White, 61, of Elstead Road, Liverpool was jailed for four-and-a-half years

* Richard William John Anderson, 47, of Glebe Place, Lockerbie, Scotland was jailed for seven years

* Leon Andrew Langford, 44, of Kingsley Road, Garden City, Deeside was jailed for six years

* Father and daughter, Anthony James Elliott Stagg 56, of Cable Court, High Street, Deeside and Toni Anne Louise Stagg, 22, of Queensway, Shotton were jailed for eight years and three months and four years respectively

The 18 people jailed for a total of 147 years as part of operation TIde

* Mother-of-three Lisa May Tinson, 44, of Osbourne Court, Connah's Quay was jailed for six-and-a-half years

* James Michael Hughes, 39, of Ffordd Cae Llewellyn, Deeside was jailed for four-and-a-half years

* Peter Powell, 53, of Sealand Avenue, Garden City was jailed for four-and-a-half years

* Lee Murray aka Go, 34, of Sycamore Road, Waterloo, Merseyside was jailed for 10 years.

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