Final member of Manchester drug gang jailed: Footballer controlled group and ‘drugs haven’ fuelled lavish lifestyle

By Mancunian Matters staff

The final member of a drug-dealing gang caught with over £1million in drugs and cash was jailed yesterday.

The gang was controlled by a semi-professional footballer whose dealing allowed him to live a ‘lavish’ lifestyle.

Robert Hartshorne, who at the time played football for Glossop North End, owned six houses, which he rented out in a bid to legitimize his illicit ‘premier league lifestyle’.

Senior Investigating Officer, Detective Inspector Rick Williams from Greater Manchester Police’s Force Drugs Unit said: “This case clearly illustrates that GMP will go to great lengths in order to bring to justice criminals such as these, who seem to think they are beyond the reach of the law.”

Alan Page, 36, had pleaded guilty to consipiracy to supply cocaine at a previous hearing, and was sentenced to four years and six months yesterday.

Page, of Bunkers Hill Road, Hattersley, was the final member of the gang to be sentenced – the other nine at an earlier date.

When police searched Hartshorne’s house they described it as a ‘drugs haven’, finding a block of cocaine, 51 bars of cannabis resin, two electronic scales and a large bag of Benzocaine – a common mixing agent for cocaine.

When some members of the gang were stopped in their cars, police found purpose built compartments containing bags of cash.

Hartshorne, of Woodlands View, Hyde, was jailed for 11 years. Police had found the 28-year-old’s apartment wardrobes ‘brimming’ with expensive designer clothing, as well as jewellery and photos of luxury holidays.

In total, the gang was sentenced to more than 54 years in prison.

Detective Inspector Williams added: “It was the actions of Hartshorne and his criminal associates that caused misery to the lives of the law-abiding members of the local community, and it is for that reason that I take great satisfaction in the sentences handed down to them.”

Superintendent Neil Evans from GMP’s Tameside division said: “These sentences just go to show that crime really does not pay and work will continue in Tameside through hard-hitting drugs operations to tackle those involved in this industry. We will also take back from them the money and assets they have made from their criminal dealings.”

The other sentences were:

Michael Gaskell, 24, of Fir Tree Crescent, Dukinfield was jailed for seven years six months.

Sean Cannon, 29, of Copeland Street, Hyde was jailed for six years.

Michael Tingey, 53, of Thornhill, Epping, Essex was jailed for four years nine months.

Douglas Merron, 32, of Boden Street, Denton was jailed for three years nine months.

Stephanie Merron, 29, of Boden Street, Denton received a 12 month sentence suspended for 18 months.

Clare Bailey, 28, had previously pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs and received an eight month sentence suspended for 18 months.

Wesley Higgins, 34, of Holmes Way, Denton pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine at an earlier hearing. He was sentenced on 19 July 2012 to eight years in prison.

Robert Hamilton, 31, of Cheetham Fold Road, Hyde pleaded guilty to possession of cocaine and cannabis with intent to supply. He was sentenced on 31 August 2011 at Bolton Crown Court to nine years in prison.

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