Ashley Hunt, 31, from Chipping Sodbury, jailed for drug dealing

A GANG flooded Swindon with cannabis and cocaine – even dealing the drugs further afield.

The gang of six, three members of which have already been given more than 16 years’ worth of jail, supplied high purity cocaine and “designer” cannabis to dealers and directly to users.

The conspiracy can now be reported, after the only member of the alleged gang to fight his case to trial after he was found not guilty of conspiring to supply cocaine.

The Bristol end

Ashley Hunt and Nicholas Bullock, both 31, were the two at the Bristol end of the chain.

Hunt was the link man – arranging drop-offs with Swindonian Kyle Rigley, 28. Bullock was the bagman; the man surveillance officers clocked handing over a shoebox-sized package to Jack Young, 29, and Kyle Rigley in Bristol on October 9, 2018.

On that day, police chose to follow the Swindon men – taking down the numberplate of Bullock’s van. When Young and Rigley’s Peugeot was stopped later that evening in Great Western Way, police discovered more than 120g of high-purity cocaine in the passenger footwell.

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Ashley Hunt (left) and Nicholas Bullock Pictures: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Later analysis of the conspirators’ phones put Kyle Rigley in Bristol on October 3 – six days earlier. Rigley had been in contact with Ashley Hunt and, latterly, Bullock. A handover was suspected to have taken place at around 4.30pm, when Bullock and Rigley’s phones were both using the same mobile phone mast.

Officers looked into Ashley Hunt and Nicholas Bullock. They swooped on December 20, raiding the pair’s homes near Bristol.

At Hunt’s home in Chipping Sodbury they found a detailed drugs ledger and around £9,500 cash.  

Bullock had almost £11,500 in cash and around 42g of cocaine in his car.

The ledgers pointed to them being wholesale cocaine suppliers, dealing up to a kilogramme of the class A drug a week. Prosecutors estimated they could have turned over £400,000 between October and the day they were arrested two months later. In one 12 day period highlighted by prosecuting barrister Charles Thomas in May, the men had received two deliveries totalling 2.25kg and sold around half for more than £52,000. A payment of £32,000 had been made to a man named in the ledger documents as “Matey”.

Police raided a container on Green Lane Farm, near Bristol, rented by Ashley Hunt. Both he and Bullock had keys. Inside a safe, detectives found more than 800g of high purity cocaine – worth an estimated £35,000 on the wholesale market or up to £46,000 if sold in smaller deals.

Sentencing the men in May, Judge Peter Crabtree said: “It is clear you were selling at wholesale levels rather than to street dealers. This is entirely in keeping with the transactions carried out with Messrs Rigley and Young.”

Bullock, of High Street, Kingswood, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs and possession of criminal property. He was sentenced to seven years and four months’ imprisonment.

Hunt, of Kingrove Crescent, Chipping Sodbury, admitted conspiracy to supply class A drugs and possession of criminal property. He received eight years and two months’ imprisonment.

‘Little Arney’

“Little Arney, Jack’s boy” was how then 16-year-old Arney Stead introduced himself to Jacob Hunt.

He was the final – and perhaps smallest – piece in the jigsaw. A sub dealer for Young, he was a successful drug dealer in his own right – funnelling the profits he made from dealing cannabis and, on occasion, cocaine into designer clothes.

Police were already aware of the youth. But they perhaps got a glimpse of what he might be involved with when officers were called to Stead’s mum’s house in Dixon Street on October 21, 2018. He’d injured himself after smashing a picture over his head – apparently in a rage after losing his second mobile phone. He was said to have told officers: “If I don’t get that phone back I’m f***ed.”

A tick list found in late November pointed to Stead being owed £840 by his customers.

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Arney Stead’s custody shot Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Police raided his home in mid-December 2018. They found almost an eighth of an ounce of cocaine – a so-called “eight ball” – divided into four packages. The purity was high – 72 per cent. A further two bags together weighing 1.77g were at 85 per cent purity.  Also found was cannabis, weapons, £2,295 in cash, designer clothing worth £8,800 and a £1,500 push bike.

He was arrested again a month later, when he had 16,4g of cannabis worth around £110.

Texts found on his phone pointed to him dealing in large quantities of cannabis; looking to buy up to a kilo at a time at one point. He was familiar with the patter of drug dealers, with one customer asking if the product he was selling was “bashed” or cut with other chemicals.

Speaking at Stead’s sentencing hearing in May, then prosecutor Charles Thomas said: “The Crown submit he was an active and willing sub dealer for Jack Young and Jacob Hunt, dealing in cannabis and cocaine. He was waiting for drugs on October 9; the drugs intercepted by the police. He was one of those in contact with Jack Young on that evening.

“The…text messages seized from his phones show he was principally dealing in cannabis until late November early December.

“For a 16-year-old he had fairly significant monetary gain from what was going on.”

Stead’s lawyer at the hearing, Rob Ross, said his client had twice been referred to the National Crime Agency as a possible victim under modern slavery laws. “One can glean quite a lot from the text messages. He was seen as ‘Jack’s boy’ – ‘little Arney’. That tells you quite a lot. It’s clear he was involved willingly. That doesn’t, bearing in mind he became involved at just 16 years of age, mean that he wasn’t being exploited.”

Sentencing Stead, Judge Crabtree said Stead was playing a significant role – with the sentencing guidelines for an adult giving a stating point of four-and-a-half years. The boy had been motivated by financial reward, was on a youth court order at the time and had continued to deal drugs even after being arrested.

While on court bail for the drugs matter, the boy was part of a gang that stabbed a man in East Wichel in early 2020.

The judge gave Stead 18 months’ detention for the drugs matters, adding four years and three months for the stabbing.

The remaining conspirators

Jack Young and Kyle Rigley’s cases were adjourned for a Newton Hearing, a special court hearing where a judge will rule on what role the men played in the conspiracy.

In a basis of plea, Rigley claimed he had run up considerable debts and came under pressure to repay them, had been instructed to collect drugs from Bristol and had done so twice.

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Jack Young (left) and Kyle Rigley Pictures: WILTSHIRE POLICE/TWITTER

Young’s lawyer, Matthew Harbinson, told the court in May that his client did not accept Rigley’s claims. “He doesn’t accept the proposition that Mr Rigley acted under direction from him or he took a lead role as far as this conspiracy is concerned.”

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