Jail for Herne Bay couple Darren and Debra Wright with tragic past after multi-million pound drugs ring downfall
Debra and Darren Wright with tragic daughter Chloe, then three
A husband and wife who ran a multi-million pound cannabis production empire after the death of two daughters have been sent to jail.
Darren and Debra Wright, formerly of Canterbury Street, Herne Bay, fled to the Spanish home they bought with some of the proceeds of crime but were extradited back to the UK in June.
Now 47-year-old Darren Wright has been sentenced to five years and eight months and his 48-year-old wife to three years.
Judge Michael Carroll told Mrs Wright he had "tailored" her sentence so she would be back with their remaining daughter Kerry, 17, "before not too long".
The couple, now of Pevensey Bay, East Sussex, admitted conspiracy to produce the drug between April 2008 and April this year.
Prosecutor Francesca Levett said a total of about £3million worth of the drug was found at the key properties in Lodgewood Road, Ashford, Coombe Valley Road, Dover, and the Joseph Wilson Industrial Estate in Whitstable.
Two other factories were discovered at homes owned by the Wrights in Canterbury Road and Mortimer Street, Herne Bay.
Debra and Darren Wright have been jailed for a drugs empire
Their youngest child Chloe attracted national media coverage during a two-year battle with a rare aggressive cancer.
An appeal raised £260,000 for treatment in Houston, Texas, but she died aged four in July 2004.
Three years later, their nine-year-old daughter Ella died after being infected with staphylococcus bacteria.
Maidstone Crown Court heard Darren Wright began heavy use of cannabis and the following year became involved in setting up drug factories.
Four-year-old Chloe Wright with father Darren
Tragic Chloe Wright, four, and sister Ella, then five
Miss Levett said others had been sentenced. The longest jail term is being served by art gallery owner John Read, of Marine Parade, Whitstable, who was convicted after a trial of conspiracy to produce drugs.
He was sentenced in 2011 to nine years with one year consecutive for perverting the course of justice.
Another principal, Quang Dang Nguyen, was jailed for six years after admitting being concerned in the production of cannabis.
One of the complex drugs set-ups in Dover
Electricity that had been bypassed at a Dover drugs factory
Miss Levett said Read, 54, was described as the face of the operation because of his status as a middle-aged businessman.
He was there to liaise with landlords to set up the factories.
"We consider Mr Read is on the same level in the hierarchy as the defendants," said Miss Levett. "Where his role differs is he had involvement in three properties.
"Darren Wright has links to six properties. Debra Wright has acknowledged involvement in two properties."
One of the drug factories set up by the Wrights
DC Donna Hopper, from Kent Police, said: "It is estimated that the potential income from these factories was within the region of £4m with some of the factories containing around 2,000 plants.
"It was a sophisticated set up managed by Vietnamese illegal immigrants who had to live in cramped and dangerous conditions.
"Evidence of the Wright's involvement came as a result of extensive enquiries following the discovery of a number of individual factories. We were able to link the factories to a John Read who was imprisoned for 10-years in 2011 for three of those finds.
"With the discovery of two more cannabis houses in Herne Bay in 2012 the net tightened on the Wright’s and they fled to Spain. It transpired they owned property there and by working with the Spanish Police we were able to locate them and extradite them back to the UK.
"Our message is simple; we will relentlessly pursue those who try to evade justice - there is no escape. We work closely with forces in other countries and will leave no stone unturned to ensure that those responsible for criminal activity are held to account."
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