Yesterday, the final members of a Manchester based organised crime group (OCG) were jailed for their role in a large-scale drugs conspiracy responsible for pushing millions of pounds worth of drugs onto the streets of Manchester. In total, the gang have been jailed for almost 70 years.
In 2021 GMP Serious Organised Crime Group (SOCG) launched an investigation into James Mulligan, who at the time, was the head of an organised crime group suspected to be supplying drugs across the Northwest of England and North Wales.
Beneath him, he had a string of associates who each had their own role to play. However, over time, the gang got too comfortable with their patterns and routines which ultimately led police to their doors.
Keenan and Batty were second in command and would transport and collect the drugs, supplying them to Ngema, Braisdell, and Woodhouse who would then sell the drugs to customers. Sheila Mason – a woman James Mulligan called ‘grandma’, was in control of the stash house in Droyslden.
As the investigation developed, police uncovered more and more individuals suspected to be linked to James Mulligan and the gang, including Brian Mulligan Senior and Junior (his father and brother), a father and son responsible for supplying heroin, and producing amphetamine. Lower down the chain, McGoff, Holtham and Hamlet-Corley would sell the drugs to customers.
During a period of surveillance between April and October 2021, police from Manchester, Merseyside and West Yorkshire made a number of arrests and seizures when the gang were caught couriering drugs, firearms, and cash across the country. On Wednesday 28 April, Keenan and Mulligan were intercepted by armed police on their way back from Liverpool. Inside the car, police recovered a handgun stashed in the glove compartment, around £25k cash, and two burner phones.
Following no comment interviews, the men were released under investigation, but it didn’t take long until they were back up and running, selling multi-kilos of drugs across the country. This brazen criminality either meant they thought they were in the clear and had convinced police of their innocence, or their motivation to make vast sums of money outweighed the risk of being caught again.
On Saturday 1 May 2021, a surveillance operation was underway at Mulligan Snr’s property on Tree House Ave. An individual, later identified to be Katrina Barton, was seen leaving the address with a carrier bag and getting into a car. Later that day, police from Durham Constabulary RPU stopped this car and recovered two blocks of heroin and three kilos of bulking agent, with Mulligan Snr’s DNA on the packaging containing heroin. Two women were interviewed in connection to this, and in October 2021, Katrina Barton was re-arrested and charged.
On Thursday 1 July, Mulligan’s associate Sibu Ngema was intercepted by police on his way to North Wales, where they recovered over £10,000 worth of cannabis and a bag of cocaine with an estimated street value of around £17,000.
On 12 August 2021, Brian Mulligan Jnr was also under surveillance by police for his involvement in the conspiracy, where he was seen travelling to Bradford, West Yorkshire, with Holtham and Hamlet-Clorley. Following an exchange of a parcel, the group were intercepted by GMP Roads Policing Unit, where they found one kilo of heroin.
Forensic analysis of the packaging linked the men to the heroin, and cell site analysis and ANPR showed the men made frequent trips to Bradford.
On Thursday 2 September, after James Mulligan was seen to meet Woodhouse to exchange a parcel, Woodhouse was stopped by police in Merseyside where he admitted being in possession of drugs. Police recovered a bag of cannabis and two blocks of cocaine.
On Tuesday 21 September 2021, police executed a warrant at a flat on Welbeck St South in Tameside, to arrest father and son, Brian Snr and Brian Jnr. Despite Brian Jnr trying to flee his flat into a neighbouring property of an elderly gentleman, he was detained by officers. Brian Snr accepted his fate, choosing to remain in the apartment, whilst McGoff, who was also present, tried to escape over a balcony.
It became clear that the flat was not being lived in, rather it was used purely to produce controlled drugs on an industrial scale – capable of producing hundreds of kilos of amphetamine a month. In the living room, police found PPE clothing including full hazmat suits and protective gloves.
In further rooms, police found vacuum packs containing a white substance, large plastic packing crates, and mixing bowls. There were also large drums containing chemicals used in the production of amphetamine. In total, police recovered around 50 kilos of amphetamine, and 50 litres of chemicals used in the production.
Later that month on Wednesday 25 September, police had enough evidence to execute a warrant at Sheila Mason’s house, aka ‘grandma’ in Droyslden. After a search of the property, police seized ammunition and drugs paraphernalia including packaging consistent with the wrapping of cocaine, electronic scales with residues of cocaine, caffeine, paracetamol and levamisole – a drug used to treat parasites in animal.
When questioned, Ms Mason tried to convince police she didn’t know what ammunition was and was bewildered as to how it got in her shed. When denying her involvement, Mason said ‘cross my heart and hope to die’...
On Thursday 30 September, Hamlet-Clorley and Holtham were both arrested at home. Despite offering no comment interviews, they were both charged that day.
On Wednesday 13 October, police executed a number of warrants and made a series of arrests of people suspected to be involved in the conspiracy. Mulligan, Keenan and Batty were all arrested at their home addresses in the early hours.
Earlier in the year:
James Mulligan (31/05/1993) of Hillside Close, Hyde was jailed for 11 years and seven months. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs and conspiracy to possess a firearm. He was found not guilty of conspiracy to possess ammunition.
David Keenan (11/11/1979) of Turner St, Bacup was jailed for 10 years and eight months after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs and conspiracy to possess a firearm.
Damian Batty (07/12/1975) of Crawford St, Ashton Under Lyne, was jailed for seven years after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs.
Sibu Ngema (05/03/1977) of Bridge Rd, Wrexham, was jailed for six years and one month. He pleaded guilty to supply class A and B drugs.
Michael Woodhouse (08/01/1987) of Pendleton Green, Halewood, Liverpool was jailed for four years and three months after being found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs.
Richard Braisdell (17/05/1971) of Llaner Y Mor, Gwyned, and Sheila Mason (03/04/1951) of Baguley Street, Droylsden both pleaded guilty to assisting an OCG and received a community order.
Yesterday (Friday 24 November) the final defendants were sentenced for their roles in the conspiracy.
Brian Mulligan Jr (20/06/1990) of Claymore Street, Manchester was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs. He has been jailed for seven years and two months.
Brian Mulligan Snr (24/07/1969) of Tree House Avenue, Tameside was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He has been jailed for four years and six months.
Tony McGoff (31/12/1994) of Kingswood Road, Middleton was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class B drugs. He has been jailed for two years and eight months.
Lee Hamlet-Clorley (02/08/1999) of Stainton Avenue, Manchester was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He has been jailed for five years and four months.
Christopher Thornton (15/04/2001) of no fixed abode was found guilty of conspiracy to supply class A drugs. He has been jailed for four years and six months.
Gary Holtham (02/05/1966) of Inverness Road, Dukinfield was found guilty of assisting the activities of an OCG. He has been jailed for 18 months.
Katrina Barton (06/05/1963) of Elton St West, Wallsend failed to appear at court. She will be sentenced at a later date.
Detective Inspector Justin Bryant from GMP Serious Organised Crime Group said: “This was a really complex investigation which started with eight suspects, but soon developed into tracking thirteen members of an OCG, unveiling an extensive criminal network responsible for supplying large quantities of drugs and weapons, two trades that fuel intimidation and exploitation in Manchester and across the UK.
“This gang thought they were untouchable, they only cared about lining their pockets. The scale of drugs they were involved in will have undoubtedly contributed to serious violence and depravation in our communities.
“The sentences handed down today mark the culmination of an extensive investigation and years of hard work by our officers and colleagues at the Crown Prosecution Service who have worked tirelessly to piece together the complex evidence to secure these sentences.”
Nicky Moore, Senior Crown Prosecutor with CPS North West’s Complex Casework Unit, said: “Motivated purely by greed, these offenders were involved in a sophisticated criminal operation to produce and supply drugs across the North West and beyond.
“Working side-by-side with GMP’s Serious and Organised Crime Group, we were able to meticulously unravel the full extent of their criminal activity and build a strong case to bring these offenders to justice.
“Working closely with the police, we are determined to dismantle major organised crime groups like this one.”