Plymouth drugs trial: How police busted gang

Blake Donnellan
Image caption Blake Donnellan was the linchpin of the operation, say police and the CPS

It took 18-months for police to unravel a massive drug-dealing network which one officer described as "a complicated creature with lots of tentacles".

Drugs with an estimated street value of £1m and nearly £100,000 in cash were seized and the operation led to 30 people being convicted.

The drugs haul included 11,000 ecstasy tablets, 14kg of cocaine, 330g of heroin, 2kg of amphetamine and 11kg of BZP (Benzylpiperazine).

Devon and Cornwall Police said the investigation, codenamed Operation Greaves, had links to Plymouth, Cornwall, Manchester and also Wales.

It began in 2009 when suspicions were raised about a gang based in Greater Manchester regularly supplying large quantities of Class A drugs to people in Devon and Cornwall.

One of the officers involved, Det Con Neil Albrechtsem, described the people involved as "large-scale gangsters".

"As it went along, it really developed into a complicated creature with lots of tentacles," he said.

'Mover and shakers'

In May 2009, police found 4kg of cocaine, which had been prepared for sale at a property in Plympton, Plymouth.

Five months later, another major seizure was made when £37,500 was found during the search of a car at Exeter Services.

One of the most significant seizures came in April the following year when, with the help of automatic number plate recognition and mobile phone data, police were able to track a van to Newton Abbot.

There they found 4kg of cocaine, 1kg of amphetamine and 1kg of BZP.

Image caption In Newton Abbot, 4kg of cocaine and 1kg of amphetamine and BZP were seized from a van

A police spokesperson said the real significance of that seizure was that it suggested similar sized shipments were being brought into the area at least once every two weeks.

The linchpin of the drugs operation, according to police and the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), was Blake Donnellan, who was from Manchester but was living in Cornwall.

CPS spokeswoman Ann Reddrop said: "Primarily Blake Donnellan was the mover and shaker that showed drugs were coming down from Manchester to the Plymouth area for onwards transmission in most cases into Cornwall."

Earlier this year, 26-year-old Donnellan, from Downs View, Bude, was jailed for 15 years at Plymouth Crown Court for his part in the drugs operation.

He was sentenced on Friday to a further six years to be served consecutively.

During the same hearing at Plymouth Crown Court, his final nine co-conspirators were also sentenced to nearly 40 years in prison.

Jon Palmer, 23, and his 67-year-old father Leslie Palmer, both of Mannamead Road, Plymouth, were sentenced to eight years and three years respectively.

Three other people from Plymouth - Dean Martin, 38, from Stonehouse; Peter Griffin, 33, from Southway and Gemma Jefferis, 25, from Mount Gould - received eight, three and three years respectively.

The city court also sentenced four people from Manchester, aged between 24 and 50, to jail terms between two and five years.

Officers from Devon and Cornwall Police said the case was "enormous by our standards".

Senior investigating officer Det Insp David Dale said the people convicted had profited financially from drugs and confiscation orders were now being sought.

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