Three local men jailed after two-year-long drug investigation
Date published: 04 December 2020
David Wright, Graham Towriss and Jonathon Ramsbottom
Three local men from a serious organised crime group have been jailed after a joint investigation by Greater Manchester Police and South Yorkshire Police seized over £3million’s worth of drugs.
The final set of verdicts were heard this week and come after a two-year-long cross-border operation, led by GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, into the substantial supply of class A and B drugs between Bury and Doncaster – codenamed Operation Heart.
A total of 18 people have now received custodial sentences totalling 139.5 years as part of the investigation – which uncovered £3million's worth of drugs, £300,000 in cash, a firearm, ammunition, and an established cross-Pennine cohort that couriered and exchanged substantial amounts of drugs.
After a delay in proceedings due to Covid-19, five men including two from Rochdale and Heywood were sentenced between Tuesday 1 December and Wednesday 2 December 2020 at Manchester Crown Court, Crown Square, for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
Jonathon Ramsbottom, 36, of Rochdale was sentenced to four years and six months in prison, whilst David Wright, 54, of Heywood received four years.
A group of men and women had previously been sentenced this summer at Manchester Crown Court, including a second Heywood man, Graham Towriss, 28, who was sentenced to six years for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.
In December 2018, GMP initiated an operation to target those responsible for the trading of bulk quantities of Class A drugs between Bury and Doncaster.
The court heard that the ringleaders Shazia Din from Bury and Peter Wrafter from Doncaster colluded to form a network using their team of couriers on either side of the Pennines to facilitate the transportation and dissemination of drugs across both regions.
Din and her siblings operated an online beauty product supply business as a front for their covert criminal enterprise.
Detectives began to rigorously piece together intelligence that led them to make a number of arrests in Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire in the opening months of 2019.
Police also collated numerous amounts of key evidence – such as drugs, cash and mobile phones – from a host of vehicles and properties, some of which were the homes of vulnerable people who had been exploited so that their residences could be used as a drugs base.
Detective Inspector Lee Griffin, of GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, said: “During the operation we scrutinised this group intensely as we uncovered their illicit activities across the country, enabling us to gather evidence and unravel the conspiracy.
“It is thanks to the hard work of all the officers in this case from Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire Police that a group of criminals using sophisticated methods have been stopped from deluging our streets with huge amounts of drugs.
“This operation pre-dates the recent advances in breaking encrypted criminal communication and required a significant amount of time, effort and skill from those tasked with tackling the crime group.
“We have disrupted the supply of drugs and cash payments between the regions of not just Greater Manchester and South Yorkshire, but around the UK.
“Drugs wreck lives, destroy relationships and blight our communities – it was also clear in this case vulnerable people were exploited to further the illegal trade in drugs. Those who are responsible for supplying illegal drugs to vulnerable people deserve no place in our society, and our community is a safer place with them behind bars.
“I hope this sentencing sends a clear message that GMP will work with our colleagues around the UK to relentlessly pursue those persons who supply harmful drugs and we will go to the great lengths required to bring them to justice.”
Acting Detective Inspector Lee Wilson, from Doncaster CID at South Yorkshire Police, said: “This is a significant result for both South Yorkshire and Greater Manchester, as a large number of individuals involved in serious organised crime are now behind bars.
“Our partnership working also saw the seizure of significant amounts of drugs, which cause untold harm within our communities, and cash – ill-gotten gains from this group’s criminal lifestyle.
“We remain absolutely steadfast in our commitment to tackling organised crime and drug supply within Doncaster and South Yorkshire, to keep our residents safe.
“We know that organised criminal groups such as this can often prey on our most vulnerable members of the community and make people feel intimidated or scared to tell the police what’s happening.
“I am grateful to the officers from our Fortify team for their relentless efforts and to the officers from GMP whom we have worked alongside throughout, to disassemble this complex and substantial criminal network that spanned two force areas.
“I hope today’s result sends a strong message that forces across the country will stop at nothing to bring organised criminals before the courts and where those groups cross force borders, we will work together and combine our efforts to bring to justice those who would seek to cause harm and fear within our communities.”
The most significant haul was during the arrest of Lee Davis – who received nine years’ imprisonment – while he was loading kilos of heroin into a van in June 2019. That day, a total of 28.2kgs of heroin (worth an estimated £2.8million) was seized from a combination of the van and a flat in Salford.
On Wednesday 24 July 2019 – with Wrafter already convicted and a significant number of accomplices arrested – GMP co-ordinated a final day strike to arrest the other remaining conspirators.
This included Wrafter’s daughter, Nicola Wrafter, whom had replaced her father after his arrest and subsequent conviction, in continuing to collude with Shazia Din.
Part 1 - Natalie Wrafter passing bundles of cash to Shazia Din in the carpark of HMP Doncaster after a joint prison visit to see Peter Wrafter. The cash was placed into a bag in the boot of Din’s vehicle. Afterwards, a kilo block of class A drugs was collected by James Dickson who travelled from Doncaster to Manchester after the trade agreement had been made between Din and Wrafter.
Part 2- Graham Towriss was stopped in Doncaster after supplying a kilo of class A drugs to Mark Bird in a gym carpark. Towriss was later detained in Doncaster after he threw a kilo block of cocaine from his vehicle whilst being pursued by the police officers. Towriss was found in possession of encrypted phone device and worked for the DINs, he had previously been observed earlier in a meeting with Hassan Din in Rochdale.
Part 3 - David Wright travelled from Rochdale to a housing estate in Doncaster with a kilo of block of cocaine in the passenger footwell. Melvyn Sheldon ran off from the vehicle before being detained by police officers. Wright was found in possession of an encrypted mobile phone and had previously transported £170,000 in criminal cash for Din. The cocaine was recovered and found to be high purity with a wholesale value of £50,000.
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