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UK’s biggest supergrass ‘hunted for life’ after 29 gangland villains jailed for 250 years

Britain’s biggest-ever supergrass will have a “target on his back” for life after his evidence jailed 29 gangland villains for 250 years.

He must hide under a new identity after giving key information at six major organised crime group trials.

Investigators took eight months, 115 recorded interviews and 10,000 pages of his evidence to bring them to justice.

His role, reminiscent of Ray Liotta as FBI informant Henry Hill in Martin Scorsese’s 1990 mobster movie Goodfellas, can be reported today after he and his family were given protective custody.

Teesside crown court heard the former drug dealer, who was tortured after he stole cocaine from a drug baron, made a deal with police and prosecutors.

Picture shows, left-to-right, top-to-bottom; Thomas Blake; Victoria Harding; Phil Steabler; Tony Trott; Benjamin Cahill; Yvan Nikolic; John Freeman; Lee Barnett; James Lee Ratcliff; Calvin Owens, all put away by the supergrass
Picture shows, left-to-right, top-to-bottom; Thomas Blake; Victoria Harding; Phil Steabler; Tony Trott; Benjamin Cahill; Yvan Nikolic; John Freeman; Lee Barnett; James Lee Ratcliff; Calvin Owens, all put away by the supergrass

He and his family will receive secure accommodation, a new identity and the ability to start afresh in return for the “unprecedented” help he gave.

“Mr X” spent 40 days in the witness box and the criminals he shopped now stand to lose millions under Proceeds of Crime powers.

Before getting official protection, he confessed to 23 offences including drug dealing, arson and burglary.

In return for his evidence, he was given a 15-month suspended term instead of up to 14 years.

Mr X put 29 criminals behind bars. Those shown above include Anthony Sweeney, 34, of Washington, Tyne & Wear.

He got 10 years for conspiring to supply drugs, kidnap, false imprisonment and assault. Benjamin Cahill, 30, of Doncaster, South Yorks, got five years, three months for conspiracy to supply drugs.

Yvan Nikolic, 56, of Rue Domat, Paris, got 21 years for conspiracy to supply drugs. He must serve a minimum of 10-and-a-half years.

David Gloyne, 37, of Plawsworth, Durham, got 21 years for conspiracy to supply drugs, kidnap and false imprisonment. He must also serve a minimum 10-and-a-half years. Melanie Bevan, 44, of Shotton in Co Durham, was convicted of conspiracy to supply drugs and is due to be sentenced on May 4.

Tony Trott got 22 years for conspiracy to possess a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life after a shooting. He was also convicted of possessing a prohibited weapon.

James Lee Ratcliff got 22 years for conspiracy to possess a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Lee Barnett got 16 years for conspiracy to possess a firearm and ammunition with intent to endanger life. He was convicted of acquiring a prohibited weapon.

The gangsters he put away got long terms, including one life sentence.

Judge Deborah Sherwin told Mr X: “It is believed the assistance you provided is the greatest ever in this country.

“If your life wasn’t in danger before, I am certain it is now.

“Wherever you live you will spend your life constantly in fear. I have no doubt you will be professionally sought by those who wish you harm.

Left-to right, top-to-bottom; James Murphy; David Roberts; Ellis Dobbing; David Murphy; David Gloyne; Andrew Blake; Anthony Sweeney; Alan Smart; Christopher Binks and Christian Winter
Left-to right, top-to-bottom; James Murphy; David Roberts; Ellis Dobbing; David Murphy; David Gloyne; Andrew Blake; Anthony Sweeney; Alan Smart; Christopher Binks and Christian Winter, all put away by the supergrass

Yvan Nikolic was the 'Mr Big'
Yvan Nikolic was the ‘Mr Big’

“If not for people like you and arrangements such as this, many dangerous offenders would not have been brought to justice.”

Mr X had been involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine with dealer David Gloyne.

It also involved Yvan Nikolic, the “Mr Big” and a major international player who was arrested as he sought to get out of Greece and into Ukraine.

He was extradited to the UK on the first day of lockdown in March, 2020, with UK officers waiting for him to be handed over.

The supergrass inquiry was triggered by the seizure of a shipping container filled with high-purity cocaine, worth around £2m, from Tilbury Docks, Essex, in August 2015 – pictured.

Drug dealers, including Anthony Sweeney and Benjamin Cahill, were supposed to pick up the 50 kilo consignment, arranged for them
by David Gloyne.

Gloyne served as the head of a crime group and had arranged the shipment with Yvan Nikolic.

The pair had met in Spain and Nikolic used his status as a member of an organised Balkan crime clan to have the drugs shipped from Brazil so they could be taken to the UK.

Gloyne’s crew were spotted on the docks by security staff before they could get the haul. The cocaine was seized by law enforcement and a major investigation began.

With the group desperately in need of cash, tensions grew. The supergrass hatched a plan to steal 27kg of cocaine stored at a gang safe house.

When the theft was uncovered in September 2015, Gloyne and his deputy Sweeney set out to hunt down those responsible.

The supergrass was kidnapped and tortured, before deciding to give evidence against them and others.

Sweeney was arrested in Spain in October 2019. Weeks later, Nikolic was caught in Athens. Both were sent to the UK.

Having put himself in debt to Gloyne, in 2015, Mr X tried to pay it off by recovering 50kg of cocaine from a container at Tilbury, Essex.

The plot failed and he then tried to steal 27kg of the drug from Gloyne.

Det Sgt Paddy O’Keefe, of Northumbria Police, said: “Nikolic was the reason these drugs were coming across our borders, with Gloyne responsible for the UK operation.

“The evidence of our witness was critical in jailing him for 21 years.

“A watch seized from his wrist on conviction was a £37,000 Patik Philippe.”

Det Sgt Paddy O’Keefe, of Northumbria Police, worked on the probe
Det Sgt Paddy O’Keefe, of Northumbria Police, worked on the probe

Det Insp Alan Turner, of North East Regional Special Operations Unit, who led the investigation which triggered the trials, said: “The type of people locked up is so important.

“They set light to people’s houses.

“They were shooting windows through.

“Significant organised crime groups were dismantled.”

Richard Herrmann, prosecuting, said Mr X initially gave police information from November 2015 to April 2016.

It was deemed too dangerous to continue.

After giving a full account of his own crimes, Mr X became Britain’s Henry Hill - played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas
After giving a full account of his own crimes, Mr X became Britain’s Henry Hill – played by Ray Liotta in Goodfellas

But in September 2016, he became an informant under the Serious Organised Crime and Police Act.

Mr Herrmann said: “He saw it as his only way out from a life of crime which had spiralled out of control.”

He’d had a “relatively normal life” before dealing drugs and building up significant debts to gangs.

In July 2014, he was attacked by three gang members.

Mr Herrmann added: “He had to have his spleen removed.”

A gang threatened pliers on X
A gang threatened pliers on X

After trying to steal the 27kg of cocaine, he was tortured and almost died.

Mr Herrmann added: “He was threatened he’d have his testicles removed with pliers, [and] his knee caps would be broken.

“He believed he’d be killed.

“He was eventually able to get a message to his sister who had the police notified and they rescued him.”

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After giving a full account of his own crimes, Mr X became Britain’s Henry Hill.

Nikolic and Gloyne were both jailed for 21 years.

Tony Trott and James Lee Ratcliff each got 18 years.

Mr X’s solicitor told the court: “For the rest of his life he will have a target on his back.”

DI Turner added: “This complex case helped us launch five subsequent investigations resulting in more than 20 criminals being jailed.

“I’d ask anyone caught in this type of violent life to ask themselves if it’s worth it.

“It’s not too late to get out.

“There are options to work with us.”



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