Jailed: 25 years for Bury drug lord whose empire’s tentacles stretched across Europe

The head of a Bury-based £11million class A drugs operation that stretched throughout Europe has been jailed for 25 years.

John Clark, 36, fled to Tenerife in a Bentley when his criminal activities became known to the police, and was eventually arrested in June 2013 after moving to Morocco.

Clark, of Farm Hill Farm, Waterfoot, enjoyed a millionaire’s lifestyle, but admitted to money laundering and a number of drug dealing offences – including conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin and amphetamine.

Detective Inspector Lee Griffin, of GMP’s Serious Organised Crime Group, said after Clark was jailed at Bolton Crown Court today: “Clark sat at the head of a sophisticated, well-connected network of drugs dealers, the tentacles of which reached across the UK and into mainland Europe.

“Most of the gang enjoyed the trappings of wealth that most hard-working people can only imagine, but they would have known from the start that even the biggest empires can crumble.

“The scale of their operation makes for truly alarming reading – £11million worth of deals in just nine months, a number of properties across Europe and the types of cars associated with international playboys.

“I hope today’s result, which is the culmination of excellent joint working between ourselves and the National Crime Agency (NCA), sends out a significant message to anyone involved in supplying drugs. No matter how sophisticated you think you are, justice will always catch up with you in the end.”

Clark joins eight other members of his criminal gang in jail, following their sentencing.

Malcolm Tidyman, 35, of Tunstall Close, Bury, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs and other drug related offences and was sentenced to 16 years imprisonment

David Green, 46, of Derby Court, Bury, pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply drugs and various other drugs related offences and was sentenced to 13 years, four months.

Brian Fletcher, 43, of Denton Street, Bury, was convicted of conspiracy to supply drugs following a trial and sentenced to 16 years.

Andrew Hodson, 42, of Marsh House Lane, Darwen, pleaded guilty to a number of offences in relation to the supply of drugs and was sentenced to 13 years, six months.

Philippe Theodoor De-Gest, 31, of Molenstraat, Hoeselt, Belgium pleaded guilty to the importation of 25kilos of cocaine and was sentenced to nine years

Phillip Randles, 50, of Brandearth Hey, Liverpool pleaded guilty to possession of heroin with intent to supply and was sentenced to seven years.

Melanie Humphries, 42, of Orchid Drive, Bury, was convicted of a number of drug offences following a trial and sentenced to nine years.

James Hawthorn, 37, of West Whitby Street, Glasgow, pleaded guilty to possession of 50kilos of amphetamine and was sentenced to four years and four months.

The gang was brought to justice following months of covert work undertaken by both the Serious and Organised Crime Group of GMP, and the NCA.

One particular surveillance operation in 2011 saw Clark hand over a bag containing £113,860 to one of the money launderers at an M6 service station.

Investigators also found £77,000 in two shoeboxes at Clark’s farm, in addition to papers documenting his extensive European property portfolio, and a newly purchased Audi R8 Spyder worth £120,000.

A coded ledger was also found, detailing nine months of illegal transactions, including a 40-day period where the transactions totalled more than £1million.

Jim Cook, lead investigator for the NCA, said: “Clark’s lavish lifestyle is over. Not only has he been deprived of his freedom, he now faces losing his criminal assets.

“We have restrained nine properties so far including his luxury multi-million pound family home. Our financial investigation is ongoing.” 

As the police web began to close in on Clark and his gang in 2013, Fletcher was arrested and a house search in Ramsbottom yielded 20kilos of heroin with a value of £2million and up to 30kilos of amphetamine worth up to £300,000.

Later that month, Phillip Randels was arrested on the M62 in possession of 10kgs of heroin.

Superintendent Karan Lee, based at Bury, said: “On behalf of the communities and partnerships in Bury, I applaud today’s judgement.

“We will continue to work together to eradicate organised crime groups and rid our town of those that wish to benefit from preying on decent and law abiding citizens.” 

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