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Operation Elegant: Eight sentenced to 40 years after police break up drugs gang

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EIGHT people have been jailed as part of an organised crime gang which trafficked cocaine worth almost £200,000 into Llanelli over a five-month period.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team dismantled the gang which was transporting the class ‘A’ drug between Swansea, Pontarddulais and Llanelli in a covert operation named ‘Operation Elegant’.

The operation resulted in more than 2kg of cocaine being supplied by the gang.

Nine defendants, including one who will be sentenced at a later date, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy to supply cocaine between May and October 2020. The eight sentenced so far have  been jailed for a total of 40 years.

Detective Constable Mark Jones, Op Elegant lead officer, said: “This was a lengthy operation involving a number of departments across the force, who investigated intelligence, coordinated a series of warrants, interviewed the defendants and carried out detailed enquiries into their activity.

“Today’s sentencing culminates more than a year of police work, which saw the disruption of a major supply chain into Llanelli and the dismantling of an organised crime gang, which was no doubt linked to illegal behaviour on a wider scale.”

DC Jones explained that the Llanelli gang was headed up by 27-year-old Shaun Hearne, who put together a team of trusted associates to move, store, prepare and distribute cocaine throughout Llanelli.

When restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the availability of the drug, Hearne was not deterred, and approached 25-year-old Aaron Hookway, a Swansea dealer, to source it.

This proved successful, as enquiries revealed the gang bought drugs from upstream supplier Hookway on 13 occasions, using 36-year-old Rebecca Viola’s home in Felinfoel as a stash house to store the commodity.

From there, couriers and sub-dealers Laura Coelho, Neville Ayres, Jordan Dale Parry, Keiran Price and Daniel Rhodri Evans were responsible for distributing the drugs.

“Through our investigation, we discovered that the gang was made up of a number of people acting as couriers and sub-dealers in various areas across Llanelli, directed by Hearne,” DC Jones said.

“Our first step in disrupting their activity was in stopping a car driven by Neville Ayres on 1st September, 2020, during which uniformed officers seized 10 ounces of cocaine.

“Ayres was a trusted employee of Hearne, who had such a blasé attitude towards his illegal behaviour that he had this huge amount of cocaine – worth more than £22,000 – in plain sight in the footwell of his car”.

“Despite this upset, the gang continued with their activity for another month, when we targeted all members with 15 warrants carried out across Llanelli.”

The week-long enforcement phase saw 13 people arrested, with searches also carried out at homes in Swansea, Ceredigion and Cornwall.

Nine of those arrested were charged with being involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine. All nine admitted the offence, and eight of them received the following sentences on Monday 6th September 2021 and Tuesday 7th September 2021 at Swansea Crown Court:

  • Head of Llanelli gang Shaun Hearne, aged 27, of Isgraig, Burry Port: 8 years 8 months.
  • Swansea ‘upstream’ dealer Aaron Hookway, aged 25, of Station Road, Fforestfach: 9 years.
  • Courier and Hearne’s partner Laura Coelho, aged 28, of Bond Avenue, Llanelli: 2 years 5 months.
  • Llanelli courier and sub-dealer Neville Ayres, aged 42, of West End, Llanelli: 4 years 9 months.
  • Felinfoel storage and sub-dealer Rebecca Viola, aged 36, of Cae Glas, Llanelli: 4 years.
  • Llanelli sub-dealer Jordan Dale Parry, aged 25, of Dilwyn Street, Llanelli: 3 years 4 months.
  • Llanelli courier Keiran Price, aged 28, of Tirgoff, Llangennech: 4 years 10 months.
  • Llwynhendy sub-dealer Daniel Rhodri Evans, aged 29, of Heol Elfed, Llanelli: 3 years.

The ninth, Llanelli courier Jeffrey Parker-Ward, aged 23, of Stepney Street, will be sentenced at a later date.

As part of the operation, a number of high-value vehicles were seized, along with £11,000 in cash.

Further work is now being carried out as part of a proceeds of crime act investigation, aimed at confiscating criminal assets gained through illegal activities.

“The sentences of a total of 40 years in prison is a testament to the work that was put into this investigation,” DC Jones said.

“Not only have we taken a substantial amount of cocaine out of the supply chain, but we have disrupted the supply into Llanelli, where it would have caused an untold amount of harm to the community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved for their hard work, determination and commitment with HH Judge Rees commenting that the investigation was commendably executed. I would like to reassure the public that we will continue to act on all concerns over drugs use and abuse.”

BCU Commander for Carmarthenshire Gary Phillips said: “The sentences handed out at Swansea Crown Court are not only a reflection of the significant effort that has been put into this police investigation, but they also send a clear message that being involved in serious and organised crime in Carmarthenshire will ultimately lead to you being targeted by police and put before the courts.”

To report suspicious behaviour in your community, visit https://bit.ly/DPPContactOnline, email 101@dyfed-powys.pnn.police.uk, or call 101.

If you are deaf, hard of hearing, or speech impaired text the non-emergency number on 07811 311 908.

Alternatively, contact the independent charity Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111, or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org.

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What impact will digital media have on Welsh speaking rural communities?

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Cllr. Ann Davies, Cabinet Member for Communities and Rural Affairs, Carys Ifan - Director of Yr Egin, Wynfford James - Cymdeithas yr Iaith

At an open forum under the title Tynged yr Iaith (The Fate of the Language in Carmarthenshire): The Contribution of Digital Media on Saturday the 25th of September, Cymdeithas yr Iaith will bring together elected councilors and officers of the county council, chief officers of Yr Egin center and those developing online Welsh language content to discuss how digital media can benefit our communities.

Carmarthenshire County Council is due to publish its Digital Transformation Strategy. This will include funding specifically to develop the network. According to Cymdeithas yr Iaith, there will be new opportunities for rural communities but, to take advantage of these opportunities, specific steps need to be taken

A spokesperson for the Cymdeithas yr Iaith in Carmarthenshire said: “Digital media can strengthen rural Welsh-speaking communities in Carmarthenshire by enabling more people to find work locally and even work from home, and by broadening and enhancing the community culture and links between communities.

“The council’s digital strategy and Yr Egin in Carmarthen will provide opportunities, but we must plan to capitalise on the opportunities. In the past, it has been assumed that the development of better highways is sure to boost the economy, but they can just as easily attract commuters to work out of county and raise house prices Similarly, the development of “digital highways” could be used only by people moving into the county to work from home and further inflate house prices beyond the reach of local people – unless there are concrete steps in place for training, collaboration with the Education Department and the Careers Service, and projects for Yr Egin to work with the county’s local communities.

“There will be an opportunity for everyone to ask questions and be part of the discussion by sending us a zoom link”

As well as discussing infrastructure and connectivity there will also be a presentation on the concept of creating a digital Menter Iaith, to ensure that Welsh language material is available online.

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Psychological thriller from Carmarthenshire author draws on real experience with victims

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Killing Eve

John Nicholl’s new book Killing Evil features a child abuse survivor who takes revenge

Psychopath or agent of justice? John Nicholl’s compelling narrator in his new book Killing Evil is a victim of devastating childhood abuse who sets about hunting down and killing abusers. 

A cunning loner who uses her job in the probation service to find her victims, Alice Granger gives each her own “trial” and punishment – but as she continues with her mission, she descends further into darkness and her crimes become harder to comprehend.

Told through the killer’s eyes, the tale is dark and gripping, with a satisfying twist at the end. It asks important questions about the rehabilitation of offenders, the plight of victims and the dangers of taking justice into your own hands.

Like his previous 10 bestsellers, Nicholl’s book draws on his own experience in his previous roles in the police and child protection. 

In a long career that saw him start out as a police officer, move into social work and become a head of child protection services, Ferryside-based Nicholl experienced many harrowing cases. 

He was left with PTSD and started writing fiction after a psychologist recommended writing as a form of therapy.

John Nicholl. Image by Helen Oakes

Nicholl self-published his first book, White is the Coldest Colour, in 2015 It sold 150,000 copies on Amazon; this led to him getting signed by an agent and a publisher, and he has written prolifically ever since.

John Nicholl says:

“What I’m always trying to get across is the rage and the anger that survivors often feel – and it’s a rage that’s often shared by the professionals trying to protect them. I worked with so many people who had been through those sort of awful experiences – some even worse than what Alice goes through. There’s a lifelong effect from that. One thing which has surprised me is the number of people who messaged me after reading Killing Evil saying they went through similar experiences. I don’t think a lot of people realise how many predatory offenders there are out there. This is the first book I’ve written through the eyes of the killer. As with all my books, I hope people find it a gripping read, but also that it gets people thinking. It’s been surprising how people have said they sympathised with Alice and wanted her to get away with it until she crossed the line.”

What people are saying about Killing Evil:

“The master of the psychological thriller at his brilliant best.” Sarah Stuart – Award-winning author

“Ice cold, chilling and brilliant.” Goodreads

“This was a great, page-turning, intriguing book that I highly recommend.” Joyce Stewart Reviews

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Council launches campaign to recruit carers

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The council offers good rates of pay with full and part-time, permanent and temporary contracts available.

CARMARTHENSHIRE County Council has today (Monday September 20) launched a county-wide campaign to encourage more people into a career in social care.

The campaign, which focuses on real people in real situations, shines the spotlight on the council’s dedicated team of carers who deliver an outstanding service throughout the county and encourages others to consider a career in care.

Cllr Jane Tremlett, Cabinet Member for social care and health, said: “Our new recruitment campaign focuses on the type of person we are looking for to help us deliver a quality care service. We need positive, kind and caring individuals to join our team and help us to make a difference to service users in Carmarthenshire.

“We can offer support and training to those with no previous experience, but what we need most are people with a friendly nature and a positive attitude.”

Home and residential care vacancies are available throughout the county with full time and casual positions available.

As a carer, duties include providing personal care (bathing, dressing and other tasks), meal preparation and a range of other duties, to help promote independence where possible and to provide a good quality service to those in need. 

The council offers good rates of pay with full and part-time, permanent and temporary contracts available.

For more information on care job vacancies please e-mail SCRecruitment@carmarthenshire.gov.uk or call 01267 228703.

To apply or to read any job descriptions visit www.carmarthenshire.gov.wales/jobs-socialcare

If you have worked within the care sector previously and would consider returning to work, please get in touch.

The council’s requirement to recruit additional care workers in both home and residential care roles mirrors shortages seen throughout the UK.

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