Crooks drug deals nailed

UNDERCOVER police who helped smash a gang devoted to stealing high value cars and drug dealing have been praised by a judge.

The two officers drafted onto Operation Merlin helped gather vital evidence that resulted in the first jail sentences being handed out by a judge at Doncaster Crown Court.

Other defendants were remanded in custody to await sentence and told to expect a long time behind bars by Judge Peter Kelson, QC.

The secret operation was publicised last October when police raided dozens of addresses across the borough and, yesterday, 23 men appeared before Judge Kelson.

Three of them asked to be dealt with immediately so they could begin their sentences.

Christopher John Foley, aged 25, of Mansfield Crescent, Armthorpe, received six years, Jonathan Stray, aged 32, of Westminster Crescent, Intake, was given four years, and David Roy Daffin, aged 31, of Walnut Avenue, Tickhill, was jailed for two years.

They all admitted being involved in the supply of cocaine to the undercover officers, known by code names of Dave and Phil.

Prosecutor, Carl Fitch, said 'Dave' was working on Operation Merlin targeting organised crime in Doncaster when he was introduced to Foley, who offered to supply cocaine during a meeting at McDonalds in Clay Lane.

Samples of the drug were sold to Dave and further transactions followed in Sandringham Road, Intake, and at the Earl of Doncaster Hotel, with more than 1,000 changing hands.

When Dave complained about the poor quality of the cocaine, Foley handed over another consignment at the Lonsdale Hotel, Intake, where he arrived in a BMW coupe. Stray - known as Porky - was said to have acted as a deliveryman for some of the drugs.

'Dave' met Daffin at Rocco's restaurant after a race meeting, where another criminal described him as "the main cocaine dealer in Tickhill" and the officer bought some of the drug from him in the car park.

Rachim Singh, for Foley, said he was a habitual user of cocaine at that time and the total profit he made was 200 because he was acting as a middle-man.

Daffin's solicitor, Richard Haigh, said he was a recreational user of cocaine and it was "not true" that he was the main dealer in Tickhill.

Judge Kelson said all three had been caught out by an "excellent" police operation and they recognised prison was inevitable.

He remanded in custody several more men who admitted conspiracy or handing stolen goods relating to high-value vehicles such as Audi and Range Rover cars and excavators stolen across South Yorkshire and Lincolnshire.

They will be sentenced after the trials of other men who deny the charges.