THEY were responsible for flooding Hampshire streets with the party drug cocaine.
But today, four members of a major drugs gang are starting jail terms totalling nearly four decades after a lengthy police investigation finally brought them to justice.
An estimated 28kg of cocaine was transported to Southampton before being distributed “wholesale” by a team of dealers ranging from high-level bosses to couriers.
The gang – described as a “serious organised crime” outfit – even arranged for some of the average purity cocaine they purchased in bulk to be “cut” with other substances to as low as five per cent purity, meaning an even greater volume may have been sold at street level.
Now four Hampshire men involved in what was a network of dealers stretching as far as the Midlands and Cambridgeshire have been put behind bars for a combined total of close to 38 years.
Darryl Sims, his stepfather Mark Sims, Daniel Taylor and Paul Hatcher are all beginning sentences ranging from four years to 13 years for their crimes.
At the head of the Southampton operation was bodybuilder and boxer Darryl Sims, 30, Leicester Crown Court heard.
His “partner” in crime was Daniel Taylor, who is believed to have provided the initial link with the cocaine suppliers in the Midlands and who looked after the “day-to-day” running of the group.
Darryl Sims, a dad-of-five who once applied to take part in the Southampton’s Hardest Man boxing competition, was also assisted by his stepfather Martin Sims, who stored drugs, cutting equipment, thousands of pounds in cash and mobile phones with SIM cards at his Southampton flat.
Daniel Taylor also acted as a link with couriers who were shifting cash and money between Southampton and the Midlands using different mobile phone numbers and text codes to make contact.
A fourth gang member, Paul Hatcher, acted as a courier, completing dozens of trips to and from Northamptonshire with drugs and drugs money.
Police say they cannot put an exact figure on the value of the cocaine they handled, but the figure is believed to be more than a million pounds.
However their criminal activity, much of which took place between 2010 and 2012, came to an end after a series of covert operations carried out by undercover police officers.
On one occasion, Sims and Taylor met officers at a Southampton restaurant just a short walk from the city’s police headquarters, where they were asked whether they could sell them two ounces of cocaine, the court heard.
The pair insisted that they would only part with the drug “wholesale” and instead agreed to provide 4.5 ounces of cocaine for some £7,000.
Leicester Crown Court heard how Sims “did the talking” during the meeting and it was explained that they had “plenty of gear” available.
A separate sale was arranged for £7,000 with one exchange happening at Rownhams Service Station on the M27.
Mark Sims carried out one exchange “very much at the direction of Darryl Sims”, it was revealed in court.
Meanwhile Paul Hatcher was described as a “prolific” courier, making some 41 trips between Southampton and Northamptonshire in order to collect drugs or hand over cash.
They were all eventually arrested and charged with conspiracy to supply class A drugs in November 2012. All eventually pleaded guilty.
A number of uniformed police officers were stationed within the court building as Judge Lynn Tayton QC handed out her sentences.
While some of the large number of friends and family wept in the public gallery, some of the defendants smiled and even shook hands in the dock before being led away by security guards.
They will spend half of their sentences behind bars before being released on licence.
A string of other gang members involved in the conspiracy, and based in Northamptonshire and Cambridgeshire, had been jailed the day before with individual sentences of up to 20 years each.
THE GANG MEMBERS
DARRYL Sims, also known as Darryl Hobbs, was at the head of the gang along with his “partner” Daniel Taylor and was jailed for a total of 13 years.
The 30-year-old boxer and bodybuilder, from The Gardens in Bishop’s Waltham, had applied to
enter the fighting contest Southampton’s Hardest Man.
Organisers described him as a “monstrous prospect who has the strength and size to crush
a smaller, less prepared opponent with one hand”.
The court heard how he had 13 previous convictions for 28 offences.
In a drugs search in 2006, police found amphetamines in his property together with a flat screen television, a quad bike and a new kitchen.
The court heard how Sims had expressed remorse for his actions and that his jail term would have a major impact on his family, which includes five children whose ages range from just months old to 14.
His defence lawyer said he had not been living a lavish lifestyle as a result of his involvement and that he was living in “modest circumstances”.
MARK Sims was jailed for eight years having played a “significant role” in the operation.
The court heard how hewould set up rendezvous points with couriers, taking along cash or drugs once he received instructions from other members of the Hampshire group.
He also allowed his flat in Southampton to be used as a base for the drugs before further
When police raided his home they found cocaine worth thousands of pounds as well as a
quantity of benzocaine – an agent used to “adulterate” cocaine, essentially lowering its purity.
They also found latex gloves, a blender, £15,000 in cash and even a Taser gun in the shape of a
mobile phone in his car. In mitigation, the court heard, he had been in fulltime employment as a hod carrier during his part in the conspiracy and had only become involved when he got into debt trying to fix his work van.
The court heard that he had forgotten that he had the Taser gun and had never used it.
The 50-year-old, of Butts Road, Sholing, only carried out jobs on an “ad-hoc” basis and did so under orders from others, it was claimed.
FATHER-OF-TWO Daniel Taylor was described as doing much of the “day-to-day running” of the
Southampton operation and was jailed for 12 years.
The 30-year-old, of McNaughten Road, Southampton, was from Northamptonshire
previously and knew the Midlands cocaine supply lynchpin Joseph O’Neil, who has now been jailed for 20 years.
He was also described as being a partner to Darryl Sims in the group.
Taylor also acted as the contact with couriers and would text them in code to find out whether
deliveries had arrived.
In mitigation, the court heard how Taylor had “drifted” in to the drugs trade “without thinking of
the consequences of what he was doing to himself or others”.
The court heard how his long sentence would have a big impact on his family, including his
four-year-old son and his seven-year-old daughter.
PAUL Hatcher was jailed for four years and 10 months for his part in the operation.
The 33-year-old, from Abercrombie Gardens, Southampton, was described in court as a
“prolific” courier for the gang.
Prosecutors said he made 41 trips to and from Northamptonshire to collect drugs or deliver
In mitigation, the court heard how he was a “hardworking man”, a “good father to his son” and that his remorse was genuine.
The court was told how he had “very little awareness of what was going on” in the rest of the
THE POLICE OPERATION
THE long sentences represented a huge success for detectives working on what has been a lengthy investigation into drug supply and distribution in the Midlands and Hampshire.
Several other gang members have already been jailed for their part in the wider conspiracy.
They included a sentence of 20 years for Joseph O’Neil, considered the “hub” of the network, organising the link between the supply of cocaine from Cambridgeshire and the Hampshire gang.
Detectives in Hampshire went undercover as they looked to snare the Southampton outfit.
On one occasion, they met Daniel Taylor and Darryl Sims in a restaurant – setting up a deal to buy 4.5oz of cocaine for £7,000.
Darryl Sims’ stepfather Mark Sims carried out one exchange at Rownhams Services on the M27.
The gang was eventually arrested, with charges taking place in November 2012.
After the sentencing at Leicester Crown Court, DCI Simon Baker, pictured, from Hampshire Constabulary told the Daily Echo that the drugs operation had been “large scale”.
He said: “Hampshire police is committed to trying to restrict the supply of controlled drugs into our two counties. We will always seek to gather evidence and intelligence around those
that choose to profit from their involvement in these crimes.
We welcome the sentences given at court and hope they prove to be a deterrent to others.”