Police who nailed gang win plaudits

Undercover police who helped smash a South Yorkshire 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.

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

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

Three asked to be dealt with straight away 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, received 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.

Judge Kelson said all three had been caught out by an "excellent" police operation. He remanded in custody several more men who admitted roles in the 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.

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