Huge Liverpool to Corby drug network smashed apart as dealers are jailed for total of more than 60 years
and live on Freeview channel 276
A major network of Corby’s wholesale drug pushers operating during the first Covid lockdown has been blown apart.
While the country struggled its way through the pandemic in mid-2020, Scouser Paul Campbell was flooding Corby with illicit drugs, using couriers to regularly shuttle packages down the M6 from Liverpool. He was supplying six dealers from Corby and one from Northampton with cocaine and amphetamine.
Among them were an accountant, a plumber, a former Grenadier Guard who had once protected the Queen, a joiner, a Royal Navy reservist, and others who had fallen into dealing to pay for their own addictions.
Some of them didn’t know each other until they met for the first time in court.
But their conspiracy was smashed apart when one of their phones was intercepted and police were able to track their movements.
Officers managed to identify at least 27 trips between the North West and Northamptonshire between April 1, 2020, and August 2020 when the pandemic was in full swing. But the conspiracy was wider than that – and in total lasted for two years between 2019 and 2021.
The men involved had initially denied their part, with some admitting it at later court hearings. But it took a jury being sworn in two weeks ago to force the hand of the remaining few, who finally accepted their mea culpa as the trial was due to start.
During a three-day sentencing that concluded this morning (Tuesday, May 30) thirteen barristers had to huddle together like emperor penguins on the benches of court four, the largest court room available. The nine defendants who attended couldn’t all fit into the dock. Every seat in the public gallery was occupied by ashen-faced relatives – some of whom were clearly hearing the severity of their loved-ones’ crimes for the first time.
These were not, with a couple of exceptions, men with long lists of previous convictions for drug dealing.
The accused came prepared for their inevitable incarceration, with brand new duvets, pillows and person-sized holdalls.
From Liverpool were Paul Bernard Campbell, James Paul Connor and Wayne Anthony Toner. From Corby were David James Madden, Stephen John Kenneth Davidson, Darryl Richard Marshall, Gilbert James Stirling, Arron Vidler and Conor Lee Sherwood.
"Class A drugs,” said Judge Herbert, “result in misery, addiction and an increase in crime.”
One of the gang is on the run in Florida
Tenth man Malcolm Chapman – the oldest defendant at 79 years – failed to turn up to court. He’d dutifully attended several pre-trial hearings but had been in bad health, so much so that concerned police broke down the door to his Northampton flat on Thursday morning when he didn’t arrive at Lady’s Lane.
His Honour Judge David Herbert KC issued a warrant for his arrest, but it came too late.
The court later heard that last Tuesday (May 23) a man matching Chapman’s name date of birth flew on a Virgin Airways flight from Heathrow to Florida, perhaps figuring that a new life in the sun was preferable to spending his 80s doing a long stretch at His Majesty’s Pleasure.
The 27 trips to Northamptonshire
Police could not determine exactly how much cocaine and amphetamine these men transported between the North West and Northamptonshire.
A prosecution estimate said Campbell had supplied at least 7.2kg of 65-per-cent purity cocaine and 172kg of eight-per-cent purity amphetamine to North Northamptonshire.
Campbell’s drugs were being regularly taken on the three-hour journey south by his trusted lieutenants Wayne Toner and James Connor. Once there, they were deposited with various Corby drug dealers, who would split them into deal bags and sell them on.
But their activities came to an end when police intercepted Stephen Davidson’s phone and exposed the plot.
On September 21, 2021, officers from East Midlands Special Operations Unit secretly watched Toner and Connor stop at an industrial estate in Kettering where they met up with some of the men from Corby.
A few minutes later, they stopped Gilbert Stirling driving towards Corby with 6kg of amphetamine worth £38,000 in his car.
Later that day, Toner and Connor were stopped in Liverpool with £64,000 in cash concealed in the boot of their car – with the fingerprints of Madden, Vidler, Marshall, and Davidson all over it.
About 2.8kg of amphetamine was found in Chapman’s Upton flat.
Analysis of ANPR discovered 27 trips and between the North West and Northamptonshire with 81 contacts between the Corby dealers and the Liverpool dealers in just five months. The amphetamine transported was worth a prosecution estimate of £885,000.
Defence barristers said the prosecution figures were an ‘over-estimate’ and argued the amounts involved were much smaller. Judge Herbert sentenced on the basis of the supply of at least 100kg of amphetamine and at least 4kg of cocaine.
Prosecuting barrister, Nicholas Hearn, said that the tentacles of the network were spread so far that it had been impossible to determine exactly who had taken which drug consignments and how much they were individually worth. The CPS had used a ‘broad brush’ approach.
"This case has not identified every customer of Mr Campbell,” he said.
“Police gained access to Mr Davidson’s phone, but did not gain access to the phones of the majority of the other conspirators.”
Two did hand over their phone PINs to the police after their arrest. And although Campbell’s personal phone was seized, several others he had been using were not recovered.
Officers were able to determine that the original supply of cocaine in 2019 had developed into a second conspiracy, to supply amphetamine, in 2020.
‘Principal’ Paul Campbell
Campbell was the source of all the drugs coming to Corby from Liverpool and was described in court as the ‘principal’ member of the Liverpool gang. The 43-year-old lives at the end of neat cul-de-sac Tom Mann Close, in the shadow of Liverpool John Moore’s University. In court, his barrister Jamie Baxter tried, somewhat optimistically, to persuade the judge that his client was ‘not the biggest fish’.
But it was clear that this man had access to commercial-levels of both cocaine and amphetamine.
Campbell usually paid others to bring his drugs to Corby but sometimes he’d visit the area himself to conduct his illicit business.
The court was told he had served 58 months for supplying amphetamine back in 2009 and a judge ordered him to pay to the crown a whopping £1,327,322 estimated to be to proceeds of his crime. He’s paid back just £980.
The judge was handed letters from his employer and a range of family and friends and Mr Baxter said: “There is good in him.”
“The sort of people at the end of this conspiracy don’t work 60-hour-weeks as a joiner, like Mr Campbell.
"He’s not a career drug dealer. He can’t launder money through this woodwork.”
He said that there was only a ‘modest’ mark up in drug supply and there wasn’t ‘tens and tens of thousands’ to be made at Campbell’s level of dealing – that came higher up the stage ‘at the importation stage’.
But Judge Herbert said that it was clear that even at the beginning of the conspiracy in 2019, Campbell’s business was ‘already in full swing’.
SENTENCE: 12 years, 9 months for class A drug conspiracy and 10 years for the class B conspiracy. To be served concurrently.
‘Lieutenant’ James Connor
Taxi driver Connor, 35, from Wapshare Road in Liverpool’s tough Norris Green area, was Campbell’s trusted wingman and was involved in 23 of the trips to Northamptonshire. He had no previous convictions.
He was the boss of his pal Toner. Judge Herbert said he ‘would have been fully aware’ of the extend of the conspiracy.
SENTENCE: 8 years, 7 months for the Class A drug conspiracy and 6 years for the Class B conspiracy. To be served concurrently.
‘Gopher’ Wayne Toner
Dad-of-six Toner was recruited into the gang by his next door neighbour Connor. The prosecution said he took 17 trips to Northants – although he denied it had been that many. He had 13 previous convictions for 24 offences – although none since 1995 and none related to drugs. He only admitted his guilt once a jury had been sworn in.
His barrister said his client was a ‘family man’ and was incredibly proud of his adult children who worked as nurses and one who had a masters degree.
The court was told that Toner had a normal life and worked as a plumber when, in 2002, he was spotted by a police officer kicking a bottle in the street outside a Liverpool pub. The officer attacked him and Toner eventually won a compensation payout from Merseyside Police but never recovered, started taking cocaine, and lost his job.
He had volunteered as a Royal Navy reservist, spending time at HMS Eaglet, but began to suffer from syncopal blackouts which rendered him disabled.
During lockdown he became ‘bored’ and started driving – using his disability car – for his next door neighbour Connor. He would be paid in cocaine and petrol.
His barrister said he had no idea of his own level in the conspiracy and had been ‘naive’.
Judge Herbert said: “He’s a driver, he’s a gopher, a rather miserable specimen and is not of any sophistication at all.”
Toner told the court: “I did not know anyone here. I’ve never made phonecalls to them, nothing.”
SENTENCE: 6 years, 3 months for the Class A conspiracy and 4 years, 6 months for the Class B conspiracy. To be served concurrently.
‘Wholesale Supplier’ Gilbert Stirling
The first of the Corby dealers caught in 2021 was Stirling, 47, for whom this was not his first brush with the law.
Officers watched the father-of-two exchange packages with the Liverpool gang in Kettering and then stopped him. He had 6kg of amphetamine in his car. Judge Herbert described him as a ‘wholesale customer and supplier’.
Prosecuting, Nicholas Hearn said it was assumed Stirling had shifted about 12kg of Campbell’s amphetamine.
"We don’t accept that Mr Campbell’s first supply to Mr Stirling was when he was caught red-handed,” he said.
"That’s not realistic. Mr Campbell would not have provided 6kg of amphetamine on credit to someone he was dealing with for the first time.”
The crown said that Stirling – who is a carer for his mum and is currently studying with the Open University – was involved in seven trips from Liverpool in a four month period between April and August 2020. He was being given the drugs ‘on trust’ and would then pay Campbell once they were sold.
Stirling said he’d been asked ‘by a third’ party to source drugs to sell in Corby. He said he’d only made £3,000.
Back in 2012 this newspaper was on the scene when his fortified home in Eastbrook, Corby, was raided by police officers. Drugs were being sold via a hatch at the rear of the house. Such was its notoriety across Corby’s drugs underworld that it was known as ‘The Shop’. Stirling was convicted along with his mum Patricia. Brother Scott Stirling, 33, was arrested at his adjacent home and convicted along with local men Alec Shephard, Robert Beaton and Jason Strachan.
Stirling was given six-and-a-half-years in jail in October 2012.
SENTENCE: Four years, 10 months for the Class B conspiracy.
‘Sole Trader’ Stephen Davidson
The court heard how Stephen Davidson was running a cocaine-supply business from his home in Helmsley Way, Corby between June 2019 and 2021. The 32-year-old was linked to 15 trips including an early trip where he went to Liverpool himself to buy 125g of cocaine. He was the recipient of most of the Liverpool cocaine and sometimes dealt it onto other members of the Corby gang. It was the interception of Davidson’s phone by police that brought down the whole enterprise.
He used runners on an ‘ad hoc’ basis to distribute his cocaine throughout the town on a ‘commercial’ scale. But he also said he largely worked alone and had ‘created a facade’ that he worked with others to protect himself. The court heard he’d ‘slipped’ into dealing to pay his own drug debts and had not been able to find a way out.
Messages indicated he’d received ‘one or two bars on a slow week’ – with a bar meaning half a kilo of cocaine. The court heard he had an ‘operational management function’ in his own cocaine dealing business and had received around 5kg of it from Campbell.
The dad-of-three has been in full time employment since he was caught dealing and is now drug-free. He has previous convictions for affray and violence in a nightclub.
SENTENCE: 6 years, 9 months for the Class A conspiracy and five years for the Class B conspiracy. To be served concurrently.
‘Busy Drug Dealer’ Conor Sherwood
Sherwood, 29, formerly of Rubens Walk, Corby, and now of Nithsdale Avenue, Market Harborough, was a wholesale amphetamine customer of Campbell’s for 14 months between April 2020 and June 2021.
It was estimated he’d sold between 4kg and 6kg alongside his legitimate full-time job. Judge Herbert called him a ‘busy drug dealer in his own right.’
The court was told he had 14 previous convictions for 28 offences. But today he was also sentenced for a ‘terrifying’ domestic assault on a former girlfriend that he admitted alongside the drug offences.
The court heard how, when his girlfriend broke up with him in 2021, he continued to control her and check her movements. In August last year he went to her home and demanded to see her phone. When she refused he tried to snatch it from her and ‘dragged her around’. In the process she was thrown to the wall opposite. He picked her up and threw her into the back seat of his friend’s car before they drove off. He sent an abusive message to her new partner from her phone and when they returned to her home he grabbed her hair, spat at her, and threw her phone against a wall.
Sherwood initially denied the offence, saying her bruises were from a trip.
He also has previous for running down and killing a man in Corby, then getting behind the wheel again.
More recently, Sherwood has held down a full-time job and has found a new partner who was described as his ‘anchor’
SENTENCE: 4 years for the Class B drug conspiracy, 1 year for coercive and controlling behaviour and a ten-year restraining order. To be served consecutively.
‘Queens Guard’ Darryl Marshall
When police searched the home of former Grenadier Guard Marshall, 35, they found weapons including a taser and a metal press used for pressing cocaine that has been cut with other agents into bricks.
Described in court as a ‘Corby boy,’ Marshall now lives in Sackville Street, Kettering – crudely known locally as Smackville Street because of the level of dealing that law-abiding residents have to put up with from less-salubrious neighbours. Messages Marshall, formerly of Bideford Square on the Exeter estate, had sent described him as ‘flipping and washing’ cocaine. On occasion he worked with Davidson.
He’d fallen into dealing after being medically discharged from the army with PTSD, caused by two tours of Afghanistan and an incident where was set on fire while wearing his uniform.
The father-of-seven ,who is also known as Daryl Alcorn, became addicted to cocaine as a way of self-medicating but fell into debt, so started dealing himself. In court, it was described as his ‘own enterprise’ with no others dealing under him.
After he was caught, his partner gave him a ‘me or the cocaine’ ultimatum and he got himself a full-time job away from the area.
Judge Herbert said he was dealing about 100g per month.
SENTENCE: 5 years for the Class A conspiracy.
‘The Accountant’ Arron Vidler
Vidler pushed both cocaine and amphetamine supplied by Campbell. He was said to have been involved in at least 10 transactions between August 2019 and August 2021.
The 24-year-old of Westfield Roads sold drugs both wholesale and on to end users. It’s estimated he dealt 21kilos of amphetamine as well as cocaine.
His barrister Gary Short said: “We know what he was up to three or four years ago. But when I developed his personal mitigation, well it might as well not have been the same man.
"He’s a qualified accountant. He finished school with 14 GCSEs.”
The court heard how Vidler had started his accountancy qualifications but left his company to seek a higher role and was left jobless. He started dealing cocaine aged 19 to support his partner and young daughter but managed to get another job. Covid struck, and he lost it, his level four accountancy qualification still incomplete.
So, age 21, he started dealing amphetamine but was caught as part of the Liverpool / Corby conspiracy. Since being charged, he’s become a father again and is now employed as a trusted logistics company accountant. His employed is aware of the court proceedings but has funded his level four exams for him.
SENTENCE: 2.5 years for the Class B conspiracy and 3 years for the Class B conspiracy. To be served consecutively.
‘Party Dealer’ David Madden
The 46-year-old supplied both cocaine, amphetamine and MDMA between 2019 and 2021– but it’s believed his cocaine came from a different source. He was involved in four of the trips to Corby by Liverpool-based couriers.
A search of his home in Beanfield Avenue uncovered scales and deal bags. He has no previous convictions.
Judge Herbert said of the unemployed defendant: “Dealing cocaine was his job.”
Madden was a dealer who started selling to fund his own habit. He wasn’t selling wholesale, but was selling direct to the end user. Messages intercepted on a woman’s phone show he was ‘selling party drugs’
The court heard he wasn’t ‘living the high life’ but did have a number of runners working for him.
There was laughter from the public gallery as a message to his phone was read out asking for drugs and to ‘borrow a makeup wipe as the shop have run out’. Madden had previously worked in factories and as a water tank installer but during a stint at Railtrack, he had been involved in a near-miss which had had a serious effect on his mental health.
SENTENCE: 6 years for the Class A conspiracy and 2.5 years for the Class B conspiracy. To be served concurrently.
‘The Fugitive’ Malcolm Chapman
Chapman, 79, was caught dealing amphetamine from his who flat in High Street, Upton.
He’d been a wholesale customer of Campbell and had been involved in at least ten trips by Liverpool drug dealers to Northamptonshire. Officers found 2.8kg of the drug in his flat in September 2021.
Although he did have ten previous convictions for 20 offences, none were related to drug dealing.
He will be sentenced at a later date after he jumped bail and fled to Florida.