A GANGSTER’S moll from Stalybridge, who helped with a £300,000 a year county lines drugs racket in which junkie drifters were used as slaves, has been spared jail after a judge said she was a ”caring mother who puts her children first”.’
Former nursery nurse Vanessa Stansfield, 27, of Stephens Close, got involved in a crack cocaine and heroin dealing operation during which a crime lord installed one of his operatives in the home of a fellow addict in a practice known as ‘cuckooing’.
Stansfield, a mother of two whose boyfriend Marcel Blake was a senior courier in the gangland racket, hired a BMW and an Audi A6 which were then used to ferry drugs to their marketplace 240 miles away in Kilmarnock, Scotland.
She also travelled to Scotland with Blake, 26, and stayed in a Glasgow hotel where she was arrested and police seized about £5,000 of heroin and crack cocaine. Her DNA was subsequently found on a sock in which the drugs were stored, and which was discarded during a chase.
When arrested Stansfield told police she had gone to Scotland because she thought her partner was cheating on her.
She insisted the cars she had hired were not solely for the use of drug dealers and said she had been through a six year on-off ”roller coaster relationship” with Blake.
At Manchester Crown Court Stansfield, who has since been working in a Subway sandwich store, faced jail after being charged with conspiracy to supply heroin and crack cocaine.
But she was given an 18-month community order after prosecutors accepted her guilty plea to the lesser charge of assisting another with the supply of Class A drugs. She was also ordered to complete a Woman’s WiSER counselling programme. Blake is due to be sentenced later.
Judge Richard Mansell QC said: ”It is clear that you became involved on the fringes of this illegal drugs supply operation by reason of your relationship with Blake, the father of your two children aged six and four, with whom you have had a troubled relationship to say the least since you met him almost 10 years ago.
”You were separated from him for a time but had reconciled during this period, albeit only for a few months, and that reconciliation ended with your arrest although you have maintained a civil relationship with him since for the benefit of your children.
”It is clear to me you are a woman of some intelligence and abilities and had employment as a nursery nurse until you had children. You have shown yourself to be a capable and caring mother to your children.
”There are some issues that have come about as a result of your relationship with Blake, but you are clearly crucial to the welfare of the children.
”I am not going to sentence you to imprisonment given your limited involvement assisting Blake to do what he had agreed to do on a regular basis and lack of previous convictions.
“This is unlikely to be the start of form sort of criminal career for you and you’ll put your children first. I can tell you are deeply ashamed and upset at being in court.”
The hearing was told the racket was masterminded by Llewellyn Campbell, 25, of Harpurhey, Manchester, who used a property in Kilmarnock, Scotland as a safehouse between December 2015 and June 2017 and earnt so much money he paid £450 for a round trip to Scotland by taxi.
Prosecutor Henry Blackshaw said: “This was long distance drug trafficking known as ‘county lines’ dealing which took place between Manchester and Kilmarnock.
“Evidence shows drug supply in this area was controlled by competing Mancunian and Liverpudlian suppliers, with traffickers typically taking a trip up at the beginning of the week and returning at the end. When they were in Scotland they would stay in hotels in Glasgow.
“Police drew on analysis of mobile phones and telephone handsets and transcripts of phone calls were obtained by police. Officers found Campbell turning powdered cocaine into crack cocaine in a process known as ‘cracking’ or ‘billing up’.
“A recovered photograph shows both men together with Campbell’s brother together in Scotland on February 21, 2017. The following day they made a trip to and from Manchester in a taxi to collect more drugs which costed £450. That they were able to run up such a large bill shows the value of their trade. The business was making around £6,000 per week and Campbell would keep £1,500 for himself.
“Savage was a vulnerable heroin user from Manchester who was forced to live at the maisonette flat of Jamie Steel, another vulnerable heroin user from Kilmarnock, for 10 days at a time to oversee preparation and dealing. Savage was seen as the defendant’s ‘representative’ from Manchester in the area and the address was used for ‘cuckooing’.
”It was through Blake that Miss Stansfield got involved. He made 12 trips to Scotland on each occasion staying up there for a day or two. She was up in Glasgow on two occasions and the first occasion arrived slightly ahead of him.”
But the court heard one of the hire cars broke down on the hard shoulder of a motorway when it was being driven back to Manchester and had to recovered. Blake and Campbell fled to Gran Canaria leaving Stansfield to sort out the outstanding car hire costs. She was arrested in December 2017 and admitted hiring the vehicles.
Mr Blackshaw said: ”She denied any knowledge of any drug dealing by Blake and have some detail of her six year on off roller coaster of a relationship with Blake where he came and went to suit himself. She also said she knew a woman who was used as a mule to carry drugs.”
Defence counsel David James said her relationship with Blake was “toxic” and she felt “humiliated and embarrassed” by finding herself before the courts.
Campbell was arrested a month later at a hotel in Middleton, near Rochdale. It emerged he got involved in a turf war with a rival Liverpool gang who sent a team of eight masked men to attack his operatives with machetes and swords whilee shouting: ”Where are the Mancs?” He had been trying to sell on the ‘drugs line’ he had built up through his dealing in Scotland for £40,000 saying it was ”too hot” to run the business.
Campbell was jailed for eight years at an earlier hearing after he admitted conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Macauley Peacock, 25, from Moston who was described as his ‘chief lieutenant’, also admitted conspiracy and was jailed for two years.
James Savage, 30, was sentenced to 16 months in prison, suspended for 18 months, after admitting two counts of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs.