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Dealers snared in undercover police sting following drug deaths of three students in Newcastle

Chronicle Live logo Chronicle Live 23/09/2022 Rob Kennedy

Dealers in death were snared in an undercover police sting after three students died after taking drugs.

Suppliers targeting the student population in Newcastle were traced following the triple tragedy in 2020. A Northumbria Police officer was sent into the community posing as a user to snare those willing to sell narcotics.

The investigation revealed Faisal Ahmed was the prime mover in a three-man gang who were supplying cocaine and ketamine in the city centre and Jesmond. He was being helped by Thomas Ibbotson and Harris Khan, Newcastle Crown Court heard.

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Deborah Smithies, prosecuting, said: "In October 2020 Northumbria Police began Operation Shakespeare to tackle the supply of drugs in the Newcastle area. The operation was focused on the supply of drugs to students in Newcastle.

"That had been a priority for the police for some time and came into sharper focus following the deaths of three students in the city as a result of drug use. So an undercover officer was deployed in Newcastle on a number of occasions to purchase drugs."

Faisal Ahmed, jailed for drug dealing offences © Newcastle Chronicle Faisal Ahmed, jailed for drug dealing offences

During the operation, the undercover officer, known as Gary or Gaz, was supplied cocaine and ketamine six times. Miss Smithies said: "Ahmed controlled the line that was contacted by Gary to arrange supply. He handed over drugs, received the cash and used others to help him. The drug line phone was his personal phone.

"Ahmed used Ibbotson and Khan as drivers in vehicles owned and insured by them."

The first deal took place on December 11 2020 in an alley near All Saints Cemetery in Jesmond. Ahmed, who was with two other men, supplied him 1.59g of cocaine for £200.

On New Year's Day 2021 a security officer at Northumbria University was monitoring CCTV and saw two female students outside a nearby Sainsbury's. A VW Polo driven by Khan, with Ahmed in the passenger seat, drove up to them. The security officer stopped the students and found they had bought a bag of ketamine.

Thomas Ibbotson, jailed for drug dealing offences © Newcastle Chronicle Thomas Ibbotson, jailed for drug dealing offences

On January 15 the undercover officer met Ahmed and Ibbotson near Jesmond Cricket Club and bought 1.6g of cocaine and two bags of ketamine from Ahmed for £260.

On January 21 Gary was on Clayton Road, Jesmond, when Ahmed and Ibbotson turned up in a black Audi. He bought cocaine and ketamine for £260. Then on January 28 another deal took place at the same location with the same pair and the two drugs were bought again for £260.

On February 4 Ahmed sold Gary 3.39g of cocaine for £280 in another meeting in Jesmond. Then on February 25 further cocaine and ketamine was bought from Ahmed.

Ahmed, 21, of Usworth Hall, Washington, pleaded guilty to supplying cocaine and ketamine and was jailed for two years and eight months.

Ibbotson, 22, of Roseberry Street, Beamish, Stanley, County Durham, admitted being concerned in the supply of cannabis and ketamine and possession 876g of cannabis with intent to supply. He was locked up for two years and one month.

Khan, 24, of Temple Park Road, South Shields, admitted being concerned in the supply of cocaine, ketamine and cannabis and was sentenced to two years suspended for 18 months with 200 hours of unpaid work.

Harris Khan, who admitted drug dealing offences © Newcastle Chronicle Harris Khan, who admitted drug dealing offences

Addressing Ahmed, Judge Robert Spragg said: "You were aware what had happened to students in the past but continued to deal. You were selling drugs on the streets of our city and you were the prime mover in the group.

"There's no doubt, however much you regret your involvement, this was done for significant financial gain, regardless of the consequences to others.

"Class A drugs cause addiction, illness and sometimes, tragically, death to those using them. Users often turn to crime to fund their use, which has a significant effect on our communities."

Chris Knox, for Ahmed, said: "He found himself in debt from drugs and elsewhere. This is how he found himself supplying drugs on behalf of a much more substantial, shadowy operation behind this.

"He was operating on behalf of somebody for whom he was making money but he was not himself making money. This was a 19-year-old at the time who was satisfying orders on behalf of people he owed money to."

Brian Mark, for Ibbotson, said: "He understands people can die from taking drugs. He has lost his university place.

"He is and was an immature individual. He is very remorseful and wants to try to move on from here. He is unlikely ever to come back before the court again and he apologises for his conduct."

The court heard he did well at school and was involved in helping to coach football. He also saved a child who fell into a swimming pool when he was very young

Glenn Gatland, for Khan, said: "He has now put these matters behind him. He has got a first class honours degree and has a good and very well paid job.

"He is very remorseful for what he has done. His involvement was limited." References said Khan is respectful and polite, the court heard.

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