'He's put us through a living hell but we still love him': Mother of a convicted Stockton drug lord

Jon Moorby, 51, is serving a 29-year-sentence in HMP Frankland in County Durham for his involvement in a multi-million pound drugs conspiracy. Credit: Evening Gazette

The mother of a convicted drug lord, who is now housebound and unable to visit her son in prison, has said: "He's put us through a living hell. But we still love him."

Jon Moorby, 51, is serving a 29-year-sentence in HMP Frankland in County Durham for his involvement in a multi-million pound drugs conspiracy.

His mum, Susan Moorby, suffers from osteoporosis and arthritis, and relies on the care of husband Richard and her morphine prescription to pass the days on the sofa of her home in Ingleby Barwick, North Yorkshire.

Moorby's conspiracy saw chartered helicopters drop half a tonne of class A drugs into the back gardens of holiday homes in Kent.

The cocaine was brought up to Liverpool - where fellow drug lord Lance Kennedy oversaw an operation involving warehouses and couriers who were employed to drive across the Pennines, sometimes with tens of thousands of pounds hidden in compartments in their cars. 

Drugs seized from Moorby's drug operation. Credit: Evening Gazette

The drugs were distributed across the country, but Moorby ensured that a significant proportion hit Teesside, where Winky Watson, Craig Costello, Steven Beazley and Dave Wright organised a supply network.

The four were sentenced to a combined total of more than 30 years in prison in November 2021, for their part in the drugs conspiracy.

Moorby has links to some of the country's most powerful underworld criminals.

He was arrested in 2014, when Interpol tracked him down on the Thai island of Ko Samui. 

He was surrounded by police, who held machine guns to his head. He was brought home, accompanied on the plane by two Cleveland Police officers, to serve his time.

There is no sign or trace of the £4,589,549.74 profit Moorby was found to have made.

He is now dependent on £40 a week that his parents send him to buy protein shakes and toiletries in prison.

Drugs seized from Moorby's drug operation. Credit: Evening Gazette

In jail, Moorby remains under high security, which means two guards accompany him whenever he leaves his cell.

A proceeds of crime investigation showed that Moorby had just £349 to his name - until an order was made for that to be confiscated.

But how did a man from Stockton-on-Tees, brought up by two loving parents in a Baptist Christian home, become so entrenched in serious crime?

Jon Moorby grew up in Stockton-on-Tees. Credit: Evening Gazette

His mother, Ms Moorby, said the seeds may have been sown when her son was a schoolboy at The Dene School in Thornaby. 

Ms Moorby added: "He needed to protect himself from bullies. He needed to be able to stand up to them. When he left he started going to the gym everyday. He wanted to get stronger and stronger."

Moorby got himself an apprenticeship in a welding business. But Susan says he was made to "grind all day and he came home covered in dirt and oil."

After that he got himself a job at Wentane Motors; but he hatched a plan to steal sunroofs from the business, and he ended up in court.

Moorby spent his 20s in and out of prison for low level drug dealing.

Ms Moorby says he began taking steroids and lived at the gym. She said: "He was getting involved with worse and worse people and that's how it started."

He had a son but he ended up losing the family home when a proceeds of crime order meant that he had to sell it in 2004.

With drug dealing, inevitably came fall outs, and Moorby's rented home on Partridge Close, Ingleby Barwick, was petrol-bombed.

Moorby then began working on oil rigs in Aberdeen and in Africa. He married a different partner who had a job as a hotel manager - and his parents say this was a time that he could have built a law-abiding life. But his mother says Moorby was always motivated by money.

Drugs seized from Moorby's drug operation. Credit: Evening Gazette

Ms Moorby said: "My husband went to public school. His side of the family all have professional jobs, but Jon wasn't interested in studying at school. 

"But I think he wanted to make money too, to compete. His brother is very kind. He's everything Jon is not."

Moorby went onto become a hotel manager at Metro Inns in Stockton, but his mum says he was more of a security guard and that his job brought him into contact with drugs; and that he ensured prostitutes there were safe. 

In 2004, he was jailed for six years for supplying drugs. In 2011, he was jailed for three-years after being caught with £100,000 of drugs.

In June 2014, whilst awaiting trial and after he was caught with hundreds of thousands of pounds of cocaine and amphetamines at his Ingleby Barwick home - Moorby fled to Thailand.

He didn't tell his parents what he was doing until he got there. Unbelievably, while living under the radar in a luxury villa in Ko Samui, Moorby restarted his drugs operation.

He continued to instruct his workers back home, throughout 2015.

His couriers used encrypted phones and ferried supplies from Kennedy, who ran the operation from Spain. Kennedy is now serving 18 years and four months for conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

Drugs seized from Moorby's drug operation. Credit: Evening Gazette

Moorby was sentenced to 15 years in prison in 2014 after being convicted at Teesside Crown Court in his absence. He is now serving this in addition to the 14 years he was handed for running his cocaine operation whilst in Asia.

Moorby had two daughters with different Thai women and says he fell in love with the country. But he was caught in 2017, when his son Brandon visited him.

When Brandon, then 16, was arrested at the airport, Moorby was tipped off and said he left his Thai villa in seconds. He says his pal Kennedy organised a speedboat and he fled to remote island Ko Mudsom.

But hours later, he was pictured surrounded by Thai police and Interpol officers.

Police seized a fake passport held by Moorby identifying him as a Belgian citizen under the name Goossens Wouters.

Thai police charged Moorby with illegally entering Thailand and using a fake passport and he was deported to the UK.

Jon Moorby is currently serving a 29-year-sentence in HMP Frankland in County Durham. Credit: Evening Gazette

As for his parents, they are accustomed to their son being in prison; just as they are accustomed to their other son visiting and buying them gifts.

Ms Moorby said: "People were scared. He can be very cruel.

"When he was in Thailand he needed money to bribe the police there. When his older brother said he couldn't send it - he had lost his job and didn't have thousands of pounds - he threatened to kill us all.

"He's put us through a living hell. But we still love him."

Moorby is appealing his latest prison sentence and hopes to be out in just over two years.

But his family say he cannot stay around Teesside if he does get released.

Ms Moorby said: "He's got a lot of enemies round here and the police would be watching him like a hawk.

"He wants to go back to Lalida and their daughter Lily, in Thailand. Her family have a rice farm.

"We pray for Jon everyday."

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