Drug lord tried to blame his son

Stephen Downing
Stephen Downing

A TREACHEROUS Wigan drugs lord tried to pin his crimes on his own son, police revealed last night.

Stephen Downing and his partner Claire Holmes were today beginning combined jail sentences of seven years after finally admitting to cocaine dealing.

But it was not before police had initially charged 55-year-old Downing’s son and he had been taken to court based on the Marsh Green couple’s false testimony.

He has now been formally acquitted after the pair changed their own pleas.

PC Peter Jackson, who investigated the crimes, said: “This is a perfect of example of the phrase ‘no honour amongst thieves’, as Downing was willing to throw his own flesh and blood to the police in order to help him and his girlfriend escape justice.”

Downing, who also admitted mortgage fraud and six counts of money laundering, along with his 31-year-old partner, must also pay back large amounts of cash or risk longer sentences.

The investigation into the pair began in October 2012, when a search warrant was executed Downing and Holmes’s house in Marsh Green.

During the first warrant, officers discovered around 50g of white powder, later found to be cocaine, drug-dealing paraphernalia such as scales and snap bags and £24,198.80p in cash.

Subsequent warrants executed at the house, the first in August 2013 and the second in December 2013, revealed that the first warrant had done nothing to prevent the couple from continuing their drug-dealing.

Those searches resulted in the seizure of more cocaine, around £45,000 in cash, debt lists detailing money owed to the pair for drugs and the dates at which deals had taken place.

Following the first warrant, an investigation into Downing’s financial practices had begun and revealed that he owned seven houses, a strip of land and a business premises, all located in Wigan.

The court heard that the inquiry revealed that in 2005, Downing had made an application to a bank for a re-mortgage of a house he owned, claiming an annual income of £32,000 from a gym he claimed to run.

This was massively inflated on the actual income from the gym, but once Downing received the money from this fraudulent re-mortgage he began using the money to purchase other properties illegally.

When arrested the pair tried to blame the drug dealing on Downing’s son and he was charged as a result of the false testimony.

It was only when they changed their pleas to guilty in January of this year that the son, who had always protested his innocence, was acquitted at Liverpool Crown Court.

PC Peter Jackson said: “Downing and Holmes were determined to live a lifestyle funded entirely by nefarious means.

“They made their money by dealing drugs and Downing then tried to hide this by fraudulently purchasing and leasing out a string of properties which supplied him with rental income.

“Then, when they were caught with the drugs, they tried to blame Downing’s son.

“They are truly a reprehensible pair and are fully deserving of the jail terms they have received today.

“Similarly, I am delighted with the result of the subsequent POCA hearing, which has ordered them to pay back around £400,000 of their illegal money and has ensured that they will not benefit financially from the criminal lifestyle they chose to live.”