Leaders of gang which sourced cocaine from Northants are jailed

Top, from left, Mark Sims, Paul Hatcher, Steven Payne and Darryl Sims. Bottom, from left, Daniel Taylor, Daniel Shrubb and Thomas O'Brien

Top, from left, Mark Sims, Paul Hatcher, Steven Payne and Darryl Sims. Bottom, from left, Daniel Taylor, Daniel Shrubb and Thomas O'Brien

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The leaders of an organised crime group which sourced cocaine from contacts in Northamptonshire have been jailed.

Darryl Sims and Daniel Taylor headed up a group based in Southampton which had formed links with another gang led by Joseph O’Neill, of Burton Latimer.

O’Neill – who was last Thursday sentenced to 20 years in prison – and his second-in-command Sean Byrne were sourcing high purity cocaine from two criminals based in Cambridgeshire.

Over a two-year period from 2010 to 2012 an estimated 28kg of the Class A drug, worth around £1.3m, was trafficked between the East Midlands and the south coast.

Taylor was in direct contact with O’Neill, often contacting him by text message.

Helping Sims and Taylor collect and deliver the drugs was Sims’ stepfather, Mark, who met up with members of the Northamptonshire gang and also allowed his house to be used to store the drugs.

Mark Sims was heard by police officers to boast on he could “supply kilos of it”, a reference to the cocaine being supplied by his group.

A network of couriers was also used by both the Hampshire and Northamptonshire groups to transport the cocaine on a 220-mile round trip between the two counties.

One of the Southampton couriers, Paul Hatcher, made the journey at least 43 times. He was arrested in February 2011 after returning from one of the trips. Officers searching his car found a quantity of cocaine and two mobile phones, one of which clearly linked him to Sims and Taylor.

Hampshire Police had been investigating the activities of Sims and Taylor’s group when colleagues in Northamptonshire linked their investigation of O’Neill’s group and an inquiry that was underway in Cambridgeshire.

The combined investigation was passed to the East Midlands Special Operations Unit and named Operation Vanguard. The operation resulted in the arrest of 40 people and the execution of 50 search warrants.

After their arrest, Darryl Sims, Daniel Taylor, Mark Sims and Paul Hatcher all pleaded guilty to the charge of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

Darryl Sims, 30, of Bishop Waltham, was jailed for 12 years and nine months and Taylor, 30, of Southampton, was jailed for 12 years.

Mark Sims, aged 50, of Southampton, was sentenced to eight years in prison and 33-year-old Hatcher, Southampton, to four years and ten months.

Also sentenced on Friday were three Northamptonshire couriers, Thomas O’Brien, Daniel Shrubb and Steven Payne.

Shrubb, 33, of Henry Bird Way, Northampton, received a prison sentence of three years and four months, while O’Brien, 30, of Bugbrooke Road, Kislingbury, was jailed for three years.

Payne, 45, of Weedon Road, Nether Heyford, was sentenced to two years and nine months in prison.

Nine other men involved in the conspiracy on Thursday last week for a total of 104 years. The latest sentencings bring the total number of years in prison for those involved in the conspiracy to 168 years.