These are the faces of the drugs gang who sparked a mass evacuation of Stretford after grenades, firearms and drugs were found in a block of flats. Nathan Morgan, 37, Brian Day, 50, Gareth Curtis, 45, and Sarah Tervet, 43, were jailed after a number of police swoops on the flats on Milton Close.
Minshull Street Crown Court heard that Morgan managed the group and was trusted by those higher within the organised crime gang to store the weapons and produce and supply the class A and B drugs. Whilst he lived at one of the flats, he also had keys to other flats, one of which was used as a ‘drugs factory’, and two others housed guns and grenades in outside cupboards.
However, following a series of armed seizures in January last year, the conspiracy crumbled as officers recovered four grenades, three firearms and ammunition, as well as heroin and cocaine worth between £50,000 and £100,000. Today (April 25) the group were jailed for a combined total of over 42 years.
In a sentencing hearing, Judge John Potter said: “The four of you are members of an organised crime group which are based in the Stretford area of South Manchester. The group existed with a view to producing and supplying class A and class B drugs on the streets of this city and, no doubt, beyond.
“As is not unusual for such groups, this group had access to firearms and ammunition, and in addition, handheld explosive devices. Those items were being used to ensure the group’s unlawful dealing in drugs was protected from others and its influence upon others had influence with threat or use of extreme violence.
“Groups, such as this one, cause untold harm and misery in our communities as they deal in drugs and encourage addiction upon drug users, who not infrequently, cause further harm to others to fund their addiction. You can expect to receive significant custodial sentences from the courts such as the corrosive impact on our communities that this activity causes.”
The court earlier heard that following the seizure at Tervet’s flat in which officers found a firearm and two grenades, there was a ‘flurry of contact’ between Morgan, Curtis and Tervet who relayed information about the police’s whereabouts. Morgan was ‘clearly aware’ of the police presence and sent a number of messages to associates in a WhatsApp group including ‘they’re back’, ‘creepin’ about’ and ‘constantly be alert’.
Clearly aware of the raid, Curtis immediately booked a taxi out of the area, but was later arrested at an address in Wythenshawe, a search of which recovered drugs and drug paraphernalia. His DNA was also discovered on one of the grenades.
During that morning of the raid, around 400 residents were evacuated. Becoming ‘paranoid’ Morgan sent images of the evacuation to an associate with the caption ‘Game over’ following an article in the Manchester Evening News . He then proceeded to make internet searches on the M.E.N. following the coverage of the ‘bomb squad’.
Police made their second significant seizure when undercover cops followed another alleged member of the gang, Graham Wellings, 56, and found two other grenades in his backpack as he cycled through Stretford following a visit he was said to have made to Morgan’s flat. Wellings has since been acquitted following a trial.
Two further firearms were found in a storage cupboard at Day’s address. Morgan was then arrested nearby as he left the flats and walked towards Portland Road. He was found with a number of keys and two mobile phones (one of which was a burner phone).
Officers searched his flat in which they found 300 grams of cannabis and digital scales, as well as a small amount of heroin, adulterants and more scales in a communal cupboard. One of the sets of keys gave police access to another flat, in which a kilo of class A drugs was found.
It became clear this flat was being used to cultivate cannabis as part of the drugs operation as nine cannabis plants were recovered worth £4,500, the court heard. Also found were two bullets wrapped in a glove and £3,000 in cash. Prosecutor Jamie Baxter said this flat was being used as a ‘base’ by Morgan.
Police then attended another flat within the block to find Day and another male, and found there to be ‘hallmarks of adulteration’ in that it was ‘devoted to drugs preparations’.
Day also had keys to an outside storage cupboard, in which a supermarket bag was recovered containing two further guns which were identical to the gun found at Tervet’s flat. The following morning officers found more ammunition and a barrel to a black revolver.
Sentencing Morgan, Judge Potter said: “This was, in any view, an arsenal of weapons in which you exerted your control.” Of Curtis, he said he was fully aware of what was in the cupboard and had a lesser role, and of Day and Tervet, he said that they were both involved through some degree of coercion or exploitation.
Morgan, of Milton Close, was jailed for 21 years and three months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess an explosive substance, conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon, conspiracy to possess ammunition, conspiracy to supply class A drugs, produce of cannabis and possession with intent to supply class B drugs.
Curtis, of Milton Close, was jailed for 10 years and four months after admitting conspiracy to possess an explosive substance, conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon and conspiracy to possess ammunition.
Day, of Milton Close, was jailed for six years and eight months after admitting conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon and conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Tervet, of Milton Close, was jailed for four years and eight months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to possess a prohibited weapon and conspiracy to possess ammunition.
A Proceeds of Crime Act hearing in respect of Morgan and Day has been set for August 26.
Detective Inspector Roger Smethurst, of our Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: “Some of the weapons we recovered during the course of this investigation no doubt had the potential to be lethal and were certainly in the hands of an organised gang who were keen to do harm.
“We know that at the time of us conducting this operation there will have been concern in the local community in Stretford, but I hope the action we took back then – and being able to bring them to justice today – shows our commitment to ensuring those involved in the possession of such dangerous weapons are taken out of society and are put behind bars for their actions.
“Organised crime often operates out of sight but can have a very real impact in communities, and it is therefore vital that we continue to do all we can to take down these unscrupulous individuals.
“We always welcome intelligence from the public that helps us find these criminals and I urge anyone with suspicions or concerns about suspicious activity in their area to contact us or Crimestoppers so we can take action.”