Organised crime gang: How cigarette butt and drinks bottle samples helped detectives catch organised drugs gang including men from Halifax, Batley, Liversedge and Heckmondwike

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Police have revealed how cigarette butts and drink bottles helped catch members of an organised crime group including some from Halifax and North Kirklees.

Six members of the gang responsible for the industrial-scale production and supply of cannabis have now been sentenced to a combined total of 34 years in prison.

They were convicted as part of Operation Executive, – a two-year investigation launched by North Yorkshire Police’s organised crime unit into the production and supply of cannabis.

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In addition to these six, five other men and two women were also sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy.

Top row to bottom row, left to right: Alan Barker, Gary Barker, Steven Annis, James Dalton, Kastriot Molla and Michael DemesTop row to bottom row, left to right: Alan Barker, Gary Barker, Steven Annis, James Dalton, Kastriot Molla and Michael Demes
Top row to bottom row, left to right: Alan Barker, Gary Barker, Steven Annis, James Dalton, Kastriot Molla and Michael Demes

All thirteen appeared at Leeds Crown Court for sentencing over two days – Friday, May 24 and Monday, June 3.

Kastriot Molla, 44 and of First Avenue in Savile Park in Halifax, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cannabis and jailed for three years and six months.

Gary Barker, 53 and of Spring Bank Drive in Liversedge, was found guilty of conspiracy to produce cannabis, conspiracy to supply cannabis, and refusing to provide pin or password for an electronic device, and sentenced to six years and three months imprisonment.

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Mark Furness, 60 and of Leeds Road in Heckmondwike, was found guilty of allowing his premises to be used to produce cannabis and sentenced to 12 months’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Some of the drugs uncoveredSome of the drugs uncovered
Some of the drugs uncovered

Diane Mitchell, 64 and of Owler Lane in Batley, pleaded guilty to allowing premises to be used to produce cannabis and sentenced to 13 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for 12 months.

John Healy, 44 and of Owler Lane in Batley, pleaded guilty to allowing premises to be used to produce cannabis and sentenced to 13 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for two years.

Ben Marshall, 52 and of Field Head Road in Batley, pleaded guilty to allowing premises to be used to produce cannabis and was sentenced to 15 weeks’ imprisonment, suspended for one year.

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​The court heard that the investigation began after a man was arrested in 2017 in possession of several items believed to be used in the production of cannabis.

It was that arrest that sparked the start of Operation Executive.

Searches conducted in Selby led to the seizure of various items including a marijuana grower’s book, six mobile phones, two shotguns, and an invoice for listing items used in the cultivation of cannabis plants.

A ‘debt’ list was recovered from one of the handsets containing several names linked to what was eventually uncovered to be the organised crime group (OCG).

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Drug production sites were discovered after raids at five residential properties on Nab Lane, Fieldhead Road and Holly View Farm in Birstall, Westfield Terrace in Halifax, and Northfield Road in Dewsbury.

The electricity had been bypassed in some of the properties and sophisticated hydroponics and watering systems had been set up.

Surveillance, forensics, and mobile phone data were utilised to prove the involvement of gang members in some or all the cannabis grows and their connections within the OCG.

Samples taken from cigarette butts and drinks bottles linked some of the men to Westfield Terrace in Halifax. Fingerprints were also used to establish connections between some gang members and some of the cultivation sites.

Detective Sergeant Thomas Hoban said: “This OCG thought they could operate under the radar but have now collectively been put behind bars for 34 years.”