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Black Country inmate 'boasted of training drone operators in prison'

By Marion Brennan | Dudley | Crime | Published:

A prisoner who was part of a Black Country gang who flew drugs and phones into jails using drones bragged about training other inmates to become 'flyers', a court heard.

Drones can be used by gangs to smuggle drugs and phones into UK prisons

Shane Hadlington, 29, made the claim by text to fellow prisoner Stefan Rattray, 28, in a different cell, while they were both inmates at HMP Liverpool in 2016.

Ms Michelle Heeley, QC, prosecuting, described Hadlington, from Oldbury, as 'boasting' on the phone about recruiting other inmates to become drone operators, flying contraband to different prisons around the UK.

Rattray was still at Liverpool in December of that year when officers saw a drone fly to his cell window.

In a search, they found cannabis and psychoactive substances and, in the gully below his cell window, a parcel containing a large stash of cannabis, Birmingham Crown Court heard.

They also found a phone in his cell which showed he had been in contact with a regular drone pilot, Brandon Smith, 24, who has already pleaded guilty, as has Hadlington, to the same conspiracy charges faced by Rattray and co-defendants Lee Anslow and Paul Ferguson. The prosecution say Rattray was instrumental in organising the drone delivery that day.

Phone evidence also shows Rattray, from Dudley, in contact with Smith the previous month on the day of a drone flight.

The same phone had birthday greetings received on December 7, Rattray's birthday. It also revealed texts from his girlfriend, saying 'Goodnight Stefan.'

The defendants, who regularly changed phones and sim cards to avoid detection, deny that the calls and texts in question were made by them.

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The jury heard that the gang were active and organised across the UK, including locally at Featherstone and Oakwood prisons, near Wolverhampton, and Winson Green in Birmingham.

Detective constable Paul Davey, the chief investigating officer in the case, told the jury how the drones all had GPS logs which allowed officers to trace where and when the devices had been flown, including tests flights around the pilots' homes.

One drone was retrieved after becoming snagged on razor wire on the walls of HMP Risley in Warrington but the gang continued their criminal activities undeterred by such setbacks.

Packages were delivered on fishing lines attached to the drones, which were hooked into cells using poles, and their contents then distributed among inmates who paid premium prices, with drugs costing up to 10 times their street value on the outside.

Rattray, of Attingham Drive, Dudley, and serving prisoners Anslow, 31, and Ferguson, 27, all deny three charges involving conspiracy to convey and supply drugs, psychoactive substances, mobile phones and sim cards into prisons.

Hadlington, of Clay Lane, Oldbury, Smith, of Kingsbury Road, Tipton, and Stella Deakin, 41, of Boundary Hill, Dudley, have pleaded guilty to the same charges and will be sentenced at the end of the trial. The case continues.

Marion Brennan

By Marion Brennan
@Marion_EStar

News and features reporter, specialising in human interest and local history stories.

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