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Published: 10:30, 12 June 2019
| Updated: 12:59, 12 June 2019
The story of the largest in land cocaine seizure in British criminal history begins in Kent.
That's where on August 2 last year £20 million of the class A drugs arrived at Rochester pier on a boat from Europe.
The shipment was loaded into a Nissan Qashqai and a Ford Transit van by Jamie Simpson and three of his gang – Clare Smith, Andrew Daniels and Dean Brettle.
They then began the long journey north — their destination 230 miles away in Warrington.
But before they could get there, Cheshire Constabulary’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit (SOCU) swooped, surrounding the convoy between junction 19 and 20 of the M6.
Simpson is filmed from above being dragged out of his vehicle and into the carriageway.
In total 186kg of the drug had been packed into the vehicles — in the van blocks had been placed into large metal drawers hidden beneath a false floor.
Simpson, 31, was jailed for 11-and-a-half years for conspiracy to supply.
Daniels, 41, got eight-and-a-half years for the same offence; Smith, 36, received a term of eight years and nine months; and Brettle, 37, was sentenced to six years.
It was suggested Simpson had taken the rare step of travelling with the illicit cargo as he was under pressure to ensure it reached its buyers.
The colossal seizure was the culmination of a 14-month covert investigation into another Warrington-based organised crime group.
Vehicle lease company boss Jamie Oldroyd, who last month was sentenced to 14 years and three months, was at the head of the other group and the target of the operation.
Simpson, the head of his own gang, had conspired with him to supply cocaine and his arrest was a bonus for police.
Joe Coshan talks to Louisa Britton about the case on KMTV
The investigation, codenamed Operation Dreadnought, has so far seen 17 people jailed for a total of 120 years, while four more men await sentence.
Oldroyd’s gang were an extremely well organised team of criminals who would go to great lengths to conceal their criminality and minimise the chances of being exposed.
They would dispose of mobile phones, use encrypted messaging applications to communicate and regularly change vehicles, with Oldroyd alone seen driving 17 different cars throughout the operation.
His gang were involved in a plot to supply cocaine across the country including Warrington, Carlisle, Scunthorpe, Darlington, Manchester and London.
Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans, from the SOCU, said: "This operation has not only resulted in the largest haul of cocaine being seized in the history of Cheshire but also the largest national in land seizure.
“We have wiped out two organised crime groups, preventing them as well as other gangs from gaining extreme profits and in doing so have protected our communities along with vulnerable adults from criminals who bring with them intimidation, exploitation and violence.
“To transport such a colossal amount of cocaine you have got to be a confident, arrogant and greedy individual. Simpson has proved that he is exactly that and this is what led him to believe he could bring illegal drugs into Cheshire without being disrupted.
“Despite Oldroyd’s organised crime group going to great lengths to conceal their criminality and avoid being caught we were always going to be one step ahead."
More by this authorEd McConnell