OCG who threatened to firebomb family home sentenced to 12 years Date published: 16th August 2019 3pm

An organised crime group who threatened to firebomb a family home over a drugs debt have been sentenced to a total of 12 years in prison.

Natalie Hodson, 34, of Critchley Road in Liverpool, Darren Courtney, 21, of Rothesay Close in Runcorn and Gareth Harrop, 44, of Lyons Lane in Chorley all pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and heroin. Hodson and Courtney also pleaded guilty to blackmail. 

On New Year’s Day, Hodson and Courtney phoned a 22-year-old woman from Runcorn over a £4,000 drugs debt owed by her brother.

The woman was told her brother’s debt would now be placed on her and she needed to either pay them or tell them where he is. The court heard how Hodson and Courtney threatened her by saying ‘if we don’t get the money, the house will be going up’.

The threats continued over four days leaving the victim scared about what may happen to her family. They were left so terrified that they moved out of their home and one family member was so worried, they stopped eating.

The threats were reported to police and this led to a covert operation by Cheshire’s Serious and Organised Crime Unit who uncovered Hodson running a drugs conspiracy.

Hodson was recruiting Courtney to supply crack cocaine and heroin to drug users and Harrop to drive him to and from Chorley to deal the drugs as well as facilitate the resupply.

Courtney exploited the elderly parents of a local drug user by forcing his way into their home to use as a base to deal the drugs from – a term known as cuckooing.

Harrop would collect Courtney in Runcorn and drive to Speke to meet with Hodson to deliver the drug money. At 6pm on 4 January 2019 Courtney parked at a pub on Eastern Avenue in Speke where he waited for another car to arrive. He was captured being handed more drugs, which would be used for onward supply.

That evening, Hodson was arrested at her address where police seized £2,260 from inside the house and another £1,069 from her car. A written note keeping a record of who owed drug money – known as a tick list – was found in the toilet of her home. Drugs valued at £4,320 were also recovered when Courtney was arrested on 5 January 2019.

Detective Chief Inspector Mike Evans said: “This case should highlight further how drug related crime is not victimless and provides an insight into the violence, fear and intimidation committed by criminals behind the scenes, which are often overlooked.

“Here is a family who had no direct involvement in drugs yet they found themselves on the receiving end of terrifying threats from two brazen individuals who went to great lengths to bully them into paying somebody else’s debt.

“The threats were so severe they left a family terrified to the point of being unable to live in their own home.”

David Keane, Police and Crime Commissioner for Cheshire, added: “The violent threats that were inflicted on this family clearly caused them a great amount of distress and forced them out of their home. This type of intimidating behaviour has no place in Cheshire.

“I would like to commend the hard work of officers from Cheshire Police for bringing the perpetrators to justice and taking another dangerous organised crime gang off our streets.”

All three were sentenced at Chester Crown Court on Friday 16 August.

Information on drug activity in your community can be provided by calling Cheshire Police on 101, Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111 or online https://cheshire.police.uk/contact/general-enquiries

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