A “well-organised” gang used drones to fly class A drugs and mobile phones into UK jails, delivering contraband straight to inmates’ windows, a court has heard.
It is alleged that Lee Anslow, while he was a serving prisoner at HMP Hewell in Worcestershire, conspired to set up deliveries at prisons around the country, flown in by a pilot on the outside.
When prison officers raided his cell they found fake food cans packed with cannabis, crack cocaine and sim cards, which prosecutors claim were drone-delivered.
He is charged with being at the centre of a “spider-web of activity”, conspiring with four others to bring drugs, mobile phones and sim cards into jail between April 2016 and June 2017.
Stella Deakin, who is alleged to have driven the drone pilot, and inmates Shane Hadlington, Paul Ferguson and Stefan Rattray are standing trial with Anslow at Birmingham Crown Court.
All five are also charged with bringing Mamba and other psychoactive drugs into British jails between May and June 2017.
The drone operator, Brandon Smith, 24, of Kingstanding Road, Tipton, has already admitted his part in the conspiracy, jurors were told.
Opening the case on Thursday, Michelle Heeley, prosecuting, told a jury of nine men and three women they would hear telephone evidence which suggested Anslow was “organising drone deliveries throughout numerous prisons” and that he was linked to jails and inmates in the case.
She added that while he was “not directly seen” retrieving packages, he was “one of the main organisers”.
The Crown has alleged parcels of contraband – worth up to £20,000 a time at prison prices – were delivered, often hanging from a length of weighted fishing line tied to the drone, to cell windows, recovered with a hook, and then sold on the inside.
In April 2017, a drone was seized from a Vauxhall Corsa parked in a lane near HMP Hewell, and its microchip showed it had made eight flights to the jail near Redditch.
Ms Heeley said the prosecution would show how the defendants were “inter-linked”.
Deakin, Hadlington’s girlfriend, was stopped in a Volkswagen Golf carrying a drone after a package was delivered to HMP Wymott, Lancashire, where her partner was serving time.
He had served a sentence alongside Rattray, while Anslow was a former cellmate of Ferguson, the court heard.
Ms Heeley said: “This gang changed phones frequently to try and avoid detection, they were organised and active across the country.”
Drone deliveries were made to HMP Oakwood, HMP Featherstone and HMP Dovegate in Staffordshire, HMP Wymott, HMP Birmingham, HMP Liverpool, HMP Hewell, and HMP Risley in Cheshire.
Ms Heeley told jurors: “These defendants were responsible for the supply of drugs and phones into prisons across the country.
“They used whatever methods they could, including flying drones carrying drugs straight to prison cell windows.
“All of them deny they were part of any agreement to take items in prison. The prosecution say you can be sure they were.”
The Crown’s barrister said: “Once you start putting the pieces together you can see how this group worked, flyers using unregistered phones to link up with prisoners like Anslow. Then arranging flights, using people like Deakin to drive them to prisons, with Hadlington, Ferguson and Stefan Rattray collecting the deliveries on the inside.
“The evidence shows this well-organised group working together.
“Once you have analysed it all, heard from the witnesses and looked at the documents you can be sure they are all guilty as charged.”
Anslow, 31, Ferguson, 27, Deakin, 40, of Boundary Hill, Dudley, Hadlington, 29, of Clay Lane, Oldbury, and Rattray, 28, of Attingham Drive, Dudley, deny all charges.
The trial, estimated to last six weeks, continues.