A GANG of drug dealers believed to have supplied more than £676,000 worth of drugs in Southampton have been sentenced to 20 years behind bars.

Five of the group left court shouting and cheering after being sentenced for conspiring to supply crack cocaine and heroin.

The six men, two of which were from the city, were arrested and charged with drug offences in 2016 as part of an investigation into the murder of 49-year-old Michael Freshwater.

The father-of-four was found stabbed to death in a flat in Westbridge Road, Southampton, on April 29, 2016.

Portsmouth Crown Court heard how the offenders were believed to have supplied three-and-a-half kilos of drugs as part of an organised operation in Southampton during an 11 month period.

Jammoy Bent, 25, of Golden Grove Southampton, who is believed to have been one of the gang’s ringleaders, pleaded guilty to the offences and is set to be sentenced separately on Friday.

Among the gang sentenced was Daniel Sadler, of Kings Georges Avenue, Southampton.

Representing the 34-year-old, Mr Robert Pawson said Sadler had been a heroin addict on and off since he was 17 years old and supported his habit with by working hard at his full-time job.

Mr Pawson said his client, who was seduced into drugs as a young teenager by a friend’s mum, was exploited and intimidated as a vulnerable user and only ever acted as a driver on an “ad hoc” basis.

He added Sadler was also fearful that if he said something it would be held against him by others.

Sadler was given a two-year suspended sentence along with a 30 day rehabilitation requirement for relapse work.

Tristan Pope, of Eastcote Lane, South Harrow, London, who appeared over video link was represented by Mr Paul Walker and Mr Guy Williamson.

The court heard the 22-year-old had no influence on those running the operation and was only involved for a short time and did not receive a lot of financial reward.

Pope was given eight years in prison for each charge, to run concurrently.

Kevin Suika, 23, of Holloway, North London, represented by Mr Edward Duncan-Smith and Mr Mozammel Hossain.

In mitigation Mr Hossain said Suika, who had a crack addiction, only acted as a runner throughout the conspiracy.

The court heard that Suika had come from a “tragic”, tough and abusive childhood and had to be taken into care to be protected from his own parents.

In a statement read out to the court: “I have made some poor choices in desperate circumstances.

"I have come to realise the impact that crack cocaine has on the community.

"I feel genuine remorse and offer my sincere and heartfelt apologies.”

Suika was sentenced to six years in prison for each charge to run concurrently.

Miss Sheryl Nwosu, representing Dantai Thompson, 18, of no fixed abode, said her client was only 17 when he committed the offence and his involvement was very short-lived.

She added Thompson’s role appeared to have centred around selling the drugs, not organising and directing others. He was sentenced to two years for each charge Mr Mark Florida-Jones, mitigating for Daniel Ferrett, said he was a heroin addict and was only a delivery driver in the operation.

He added the 29-year-old, of no fixed abode but formally from the Southampton area, was motivated by his urge to feed his “evil addiction”.

Ferrett was handed a four-and-a-half year sentence for each charge to run concurrently.

In a statement released after the verdict, Detective Inspector Simon Baker said: “We are committed to tackling drug dealing in Southampton.

"If you believe drug-related activity is going on in your neighbourhood, report to us, in confidence, via 101.”