THREE Wigan men have been jailed for a total of 15 years for their involvement in a major Scottish drugs ring.
One of them acted as a “goose guide,” using shooting trips north of the border for trafficking heroin.
Others who helped the “leading players” bring the drug from the North of England to Fife and Tayside were also handed hefty prison terms.
Passing sentence at the High Court in Edinburgh yesterday, judge Lord Uist told the five men: “The evil trade of drug supply is a form of poison which ruins individual lives and destroys the very fabric of society.”
A trial heard how Alan Croston regularly travelled from his home in Millers Lane, Platt Bridge, to look after well-heeled clients and take them to where geese and ducks were feeding in the Fife area.
A Pakistani government minister was among his customers and shooting parties from abroad used his services.
But the hunter became the hunted when Fife Police set up Operation Rumba to stem the flow of hard drugs.
Under-cover officers kept a watch on former mineworker Croston, Lee Robb – another goose guide who has since been jailed on a separate drug charge - and others.
The surveillance led to the seizure of 2kg of heroin - with a street value of £200,00 - and more than £25,000 in cash.
Croston, 58; his brother Anthony, 53, of Egerton Street, Abram; Lee Griffin, 44, of Vicarage Road, Abram, Robb, 29, of Paterson Park, Leslie, Fife; and his dad Angus Robb, 59, of High Street, Leslie, all denied being concerned in the supply of heroin between August and October 2011.
But a jury found them guilty of playing different roles.
The trial heard how phone calls and text messages could be linked to sightings by the surveillance team.
After £8,000 cash and a stun gun were dug up from a hiding place at a farm track near Freuchie, Fife, Lee Robb texted: “Them dirty scum bags found my stash with eight grand in it so I am skint at the moment.”
Lee Griffin, who helped Alan Croston look after his dogs, was detained in a lay-by on the A977 Kinross to Powmill road on the evening of October 4 2011.
He had brought the heroin there in his silver Transit.
Lee Robb was in the area, driving his black Volkswagen Golf in the area and was detained soon afterwards.
Alan Croston, it was alleged, was making phone calls trying to find out what had happened.
Questioned by advocate depute Richard Goddard, prosecuting, he tried to suggest his dog might have jumped up while they were walking and pressed the “send” button on his phone.
Jailing him, Lord Uist blasted: “You gave evidence at the trial and told some of the most pathetic lies I have ever heard from a witness.”
The trial also heard how Anthony Croston was detained when police stopped a silver Mercedes heading south. There was almost £18,000 in the car.
He told police the car driver had been heading for an auction in Kinross and the cash was to purchase a vehicle. He was “along for the ride” and after hearing the auction had been cancelled they were heading back to Lancashire on September 19 2011.
Police drug experts suggested the cash had been a down payment for a consignment of heroin.
Alan Croston, giving evidence, said he had been a miner until 1987 when he began working as a goose guide. He said he and Lee Robb - who was in the same trade - met to discuss shooting and where birds had been seen.
He also claimed that the sightings of his black Navarra vehicle on quiet country roads in Fife were because he was checking out shooting areas.
Lee Robb, presently serving a sentence of four years and nine months, was jailed for a further nine years today. “It was clear from the evidence that you were in business as a heroin dealer,” the judge told him.
Alan Croston - described as “the lead player” at the English end of the operation, was jailed for seven years.
Angus Robb, a cash courier, was jailed for three years.
Anthony Croston, who took delivery of the money, was also jailed for three years.
Lee Griffin was jailed for five years because of his greater involvement.