County Durham cage fighter still on the run as sister jailed for her role in drugs ring

Anita Towler has been jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. Brother Darren Towler is still on the run after being sentenced last month. Credit: Durham Police

A former champion cage fighter is still on the run after being convicted of smuggling millions of pounds worth of drugs.

Darren Towler was sentenced in October for his role in the drugs gang.

Durham Police said Towler, from Consett in County Durham, orchestrated the "sophisticated conspiracy".

A warrant is still out for the arrest of the former MMA champion after he failed to attend the court hearing.

His sister Anita Towler, also from Consett, was jailed on Tuesday 15 November for her role in the gang.

The 43-year-old, of Second Street, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and was jailed for two years and eight months.

The police investigation found the gang had been exchanging "industrial scale quantities" of drugs for hundreds of thousands of pounds, smuggling cocaine, amphetamine, and cannabis into County Durham from Merseyside.

A covert operation led to officers seizing more than £100,000 in cash hidden in shoe boxes disguised as birthday presents.

They were discovered in the boot of a vehicle which had been intercepted in Barnard Castle.

Officers identified more than ten trips between the North East and North West over a five-month period in 2017.

On Wednesday 16 November, Durham Police confirmed a warrant was still active for the arrest of Darren Towler.

Last month, nine people were sentenced for their roles:

  • Darren Towler, of Rutherford Street, Newcastle, was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine and amphetamine but admitted the same charge for cannabis. The 41-year-old failed to appear at court, but was sentenced to 24 years in his absence.

  • His half-brother, Jonathan Kitson, of Riding Hill, Great Lumley, pleaded guilty during his trial to charges of conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and a separate charge involving cannabis. The 28-year-old was jailed for nine years and 11 months.

  • Jodie Smith, of Main Street, Consett - the former partner of Towler - pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply Class A drugs. The 42-year-old was jailed for six years and six months.

  • Craig Field, 40, of Lincoln Place, Consett, was jailed for five years and seven months after admitting supplying cocaine.

  • Daniel Mappin, 29, of Front Street, Tudhoe, was jailed for five years and four months for being concerned in the supply of cocaine and heroin.

  • Aaron Merritt, 29, of Hallgarth, Consett, was jailed for 29 months.

  • John Huscroft, of Thornhill Gardens, Burnopfield, pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine with intent to supply. The 45-year-old was handed a 22-month prison sentence, suspended for two months.

  • Two of the Merseyside contingency were also handed lengthy jail sentences. They are 40-year-old Ricky Hemmings and 48-year-old John Campbell, both from Kirkby, in Merseyside. The pair admitted conspiracy charged and Hemmings was jailed for 12 years and six months while Campbell received a six year and eight-month jail sentence.

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