Organised criminal gang throw dozens of drugs and phones packages over prison walls in Salford

Gang threw dozens of packages containing drugs, phones and tobacco over the walls of Forest Bank jail Credit: MEN Media

A gang smuggled drugs, phones and tobacco into a prison by throwing packages over its walls after being ordered to by serving prisoners.

The contraband was sent into Forest Bank jail in Salford in 'prepared to order' packs, after boss James Rourke, 34, recruited a group to help him throw the parcels into the exercise yards.

Rourke also liaised with prisoners via text message to keep them updated on their deliveries."Coming over any second now rkid," he told one prisoner. "Hopefully my boys are gonna go and bang them up now," he told another.

'Prepared to order' packs thrown over walls into the prison exercise yard Credit: MEN Media

Greater Manchester Police (GMP) say it has now dismantled the group after two men were locked up for their part in the plot.

The force launched an investigation after prison staff reported packages regularly being thrown over the walls.

Officers seized five packages which contained a mixture of cocaine, cannabis, tobacco, phones, SIM cards and USB sticks. Credit: MEN Media

Police said at least 47 packages were thrown over on six occasions between September and October 2021 when Rourke or 20-year-old Mitchell Murden, who he had recruited into the scheme, were seen outside Forest Bank with other unknown offenders.

Officers seized five packages which contained a mixture of cocaine, cannabis, tobacco, phones, SIM cards and USB sticks.Within prison, where values are inflated, the five packages could have been worth up to £30,000, Manchester Crown Court heard.

Boss James Rourke, 34, recruited others to help him and he also liaised with prisoners via text message to keep them updated on deliveries. Credit: GMP

Detectives estimate that the 47 packages could have been worth more than £200,000 within the jail.Police said such smuggling plots can fuel 'violence, exploitation and bullying' in jail.

Rourke and Murden, both from Salford, have now both been locked up.

20-year-old Mitchell Murden was recruited into the scheme Credit: GMP

"When drugs are supplied into prison that causes all sorts of problems, which makes life more difficult for everyone in there," Judge Stephen Davies told the pair.

Prosecuting, Andy Evans told how they first came to the attention of police after reports of 'suspicious activity' outside the prison on October 3 last year, at about 8.30am.Rourke and Murden were stopped nearby by officers but did not have anything incriminating on them.

But the pair were recorded on body worn video footage, wearing clothing which matched those being worn by offenders seen on CCTV footage throwing packages over jail walls.

Murden was identified as having been outside the jail on five occasions when packages were thrown, and Rourke was seen three times.

Police searched Rourke's home and found further drugs worth more than £7,000, which is suspected to have been stored for further packages.

Officers analysed his phone and found a video which suggested he was also 'experimenting' in the use of drones to smuggle contraband into prison.

They also later seized a drone from his home.

Police say smuggling plots can fuel 'violence and bullying' in jail. Rourke and Murden, both from Salford, have now been jailed. Credit: MEN Media

Interrogation of his phone also revealed text messages Rourke had sent to prisoners.

He apologised to one prisoner because his 'boys' had let him down by not turning up.He promised to refund the lag if he was 'let down' again.

Rourke received a message from someone else asking him to 'do' HMP Hindley in Wigan.Defending, Adam Brown said cocaine addict Rourke became involved after wracking up debts with dealers, and that he was put under pressure to comply.

He now 'deeply regrets' what he did, the court heard.Dan Gaskell, defending Murden, said it was 'difficult to fathom' why he had become involved.

He claimed Murden wanted to 'curry favour' with older men, which he said displayed immaturity.He said Murden, a shop fitter, was naive and didn't realise the seriousness of the crime he embroiled himself in.

Rourke was jailed for four years and eight months, while Murden was locked up for two years.Both will serve half of their sentences in prison.

Rourke, of Ventnor Street, Salford, and Murden, of Carina Place, Salford, both pleaded guilty to three counts of conveying prohibited items into prison.Rourke also admitted four counts of possession with intent to supply drugs; cocaine, ketamine, cannabis and the steroid Stanozolol.

After the hearing, a GMP spokesman said: "The conveyance of illegal items into our prisons is a growing and evolving threat.

"Drugs empower organised crime groups (OCG) on both sides of the prison walls fuelling violence, exploitation and bullying especially due to the vast, inflated profits to be made."The close collaboration between Her Majesty's Prison and Probation Service, GMP and HMP Forest Bank, under Operation Dragonfire, has led to the dismantling of this local OCG responsible for conveying a huge amount of illegal items into the prison.

"The number of throw overs at the prison has now fallen and it is a safer community at Forest Bank for officers, staff and prisoners."

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