A CHORLEY man who conspired to sell crack cocaine and heroin for an organised crime group which threatened to firebomb a family home over a drugs debt has been jailed.

Chester Crown Court heard Gareth Harrop, 44, was recruited by Natalie Hodson, 34, to drive Darren Courtney, 21, to and from Chorley to deal the drugs as well as facilitate the resupply. Courtney exploited the elderly parents of a local drug user by forcing his way into their home to use as a base to deal the drugs from – a term known as cuckooing.

Harrop would collect Courtney in Runcorn and drive to Speke to meet with Hodson to deliver the drug money. At 6pm on January 4, Courtney parked at a pub on Eastern Avenue in Speke where he waited for another car to arrive. He was captured being handed more drugs, which would be used for onward supply.

That evening, Hodson was arrested at her address in Critchley Road in Liverpool where police seized £2,260 from inside the house and another £1,069 from her car.

A written note keeping a record of who owed drug money – known as a tick list – was found in the toilet of her home. Drugs valued at £4,320 were also recovered when Courtney was arrested on January 5.

However it was Hudson’s actions days earlier that led Cheshire Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit to launch a covert operation which revealed she was running a drugs conspiracy

On New Year’s Day, Hodson and Courtney phoned a 22-year-old woman from Runcorn over a £4,000 drugs debt owed by her brother.

The woman was told her brother’s debt would now be placed on her and she needed to either pay them or tell them where he was. Hodson and Courtney threatened her by saying ‘if we don’t get the money, the house will be going up’.

The threats continued over four days leaving the victim scared about what may happen to her family. They were left so terrified that they moved out of their home and one family member was so worried, they stopped eating.

Harrop, of Lyons Lane, Chorley, Hodson and Courtney, of Rothesay Close, Runcorn all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. Hodson and Courtney also pleaded guilty to blackmail.

Harrop was jailed for two and half years, Hodson for six and Courtney for four.

Det Chf Insp Mike Evans said: “This case should highlight further how drug related crime is not victimless and provides an insight into the violence, fear and intimidation committed by criminals behind the scenes, which are often overlooked.”