How smiling beer photograph helped snare cocaine crime boss who thought he was ‘undetectable’

Smiling, having a number of beers within the backyard throughout the first lockdown. The person within the purple Armani T-shirt is Leon Atkinson, a goal legal for GMP and shut buddy of cop killer Dale Cregan.

Police consider Atkinson has been the pinnacle of a Tameside organised crime group for a decade. In 2013, on trial alongside Cregan, he was cleared of murdering Mark Brief and making an attempt to homicide three others in Droylsden’s Cotton Tree pub. Cregan would later admit to killing Mark Brief, 23, his father, David, 46, and police constables Fiona Bone, 32, and Nicola Hughes, 23, who he lured to a home in Hattersley.

The Crown had alleged Atkinson had recruited Cregan to commit the homicide of Mark Brief after his mom had been slapped 12 days earlier by a member of the Brief household. However a jury cleared him off all prices.

Dale Cregan
(Picture: MEN Media)

However the picture of him stress-free within the sunshine was key proof in his downfall as an enormous time medication seller. The image was taken on April eighth 2020 and despatched to Jason Cox. It was found after regulation enforcement companies cracked the “secret” Encrochat community utilized by criminals to message one another.

It was discovered by police on Jason Cox’s telephone as they investigated the drug-dealing actions of the Salford-based Cox household. Utilizing the handles ‘Carrothorn’ and ‘Maidenbear’ Atkinson messaged the Cox clan to barter shopping for from them half of £1m price of cocaine that they had stolen from an notorious Liverpool crime gang.

Police consider Atkinson was conscious the cocaine had been taxed from different criminals however didn’t realize it had been stolen from such a potent Merseyside agency. Jason and Craig Cox, Liverpool gangster, Richard Caswell, and employed hand, Ben Monks-Gorton, carried out a brutal housebreaking on the Liverpool gang’s medication stash home to get the 30kg of cocaine which had wholesale worth of £1.2m, and was hidden in a storm drain. A father and son have been significantly injured when attacked with a machete and axe throughout the theft.

The cope with Atkinson was carried out close to Manchester Metropolis’s Etihad Stadium. Manchester Crown Court docket was informed Michael Nevin a courier working for the Cox household organized to promote the medication to Atkinson who despatched a “mate” to fulfill him close to Manchester Metropolis’s coaching floor in East Manchester.

On the handover, Nevin offered six kilograms of cocaine to Nathan Powell, who used the Encro deal with ‘Festivetape.’ After the handover one buyer was again in contact and mentioned he wished to purchase one other seven kilograms of medication.

A second assembly was additionally held close to to Manchester Metropolis’s coaching floor. The court docket heard that the criminals concerned within the handover used the password ‘Man Metropolis’ for the assembly.

The court docket additionally heard that one in every of Nevin’s prospects was irritated about using the ‘Man Metropolis’ password as a result of he was a Manchester United fan. Nevin joked that the client had been left ‘fuming.’

Police discovered concerning the conferences close to the Manchester Metropolis floor after studying messages despatched on the EncroChat community. Higher Manchester Police and the North West Regional Crime Unit later arrested the principle members within the conspiracy.

Leon Atkinson, 43, from Atherton, convicted of conspiracy to produce Class A medication.

Detective Chief Inspector, Roger Smethurst, of GMP, commenting on the image Atkinson despatched Jason Cox, mentioned: “He grew to become so assured within the safety of those units that they grew to become very blasé about utilizing them. They thought they have been undetectable by the police. He isn’t the one one who has made errors round using them.

“We estimate Atkinson has been head of an organised crime group for the final ten years. He purchased 15kg of cocaine (from the Cox brothers) unwittingly after which finds himself in caught in the course of a serious dispute between the Cox and the Liverpool gang. He is aware of that it’s taxed however not who it has been taxed from. “

Atkinson, 43, had moved from the Tameside space to Atherton, however, his legal profession was interrupted in July 2020 when he was in a primary raft of 34 individuals charged domestically after the encrypted telephone community was infiltrated by police.

Nearly 800 individuals have been arrested throughout the UK after French officers hacked the Encrochat platform enabling police to learn textual content messages.

Detective Chief Inspector Smethurst mentioned: “We began to have a look at messages Atkinson had despatched and noticed that he was concerned within the provide of sophistication A medication and he was controlling individuals round him within the Openshaw and Tameside space, engaged on his behalf, in primarily cocaine.

“He was finally charged with a conspiracy involving 28kg of cocaine of which inadvertently he takes possession of the 15kg from the Cox’s.”

At Manchester Crown Court docket Atkinson of Brindley Shut, Atherton, was sentenced to fifteen years in jail after pleading responsible to conspiracy to produce class A medication and conspiracy to switch legal property. He was described in court docket as a ‘regional’ cocaine provider who offered on medication imported into the UK by a contact.

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