Politics

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


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

Police imagine Atkinson has been the top of a Tameside organised crime group for a decade. In 2013, on trial alongside Cregan, he was cleared of murdering Mark Brief and trying 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 costs.



Dale Cregan

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 businesses cracked the “secret” Encrochat community utilized by criminals to message one another.

It was discovered by police on Jason Cox’s cellphone 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 they’d stolen from an notorious Liverpool crime gang.

Police imagine Atkinson was conscious the cocaine had been taxed from different criminals however didn’t comprehend 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 had been significantly injured when attacked with a machete and axe through the theft.

The take care of Atkinson was performed close to Manchester Metropolis’s Etihad Stadium. Manchester Crown Courtroom was instructed 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 courtroom heard that the criminals concerned within the handover used the password ‘Man Metropolis’ for the assembly.

The courtroom additionally heard that one among Nevin’s clients was aggravated about the usage of the ‘Man Metropolis’ password as a result of he was a Manchester United fan. Nevin joked that the shopper had been left ‘fuming.’

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



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

Detective Chief Inspector, Roger Smethurst, of GMP, commenting on the image Atkinson despatched Jason Cox, mentioned: “He became so confident in the security of these devices that they became very blasé about using them. They thought they were undetectable by the police. He is not the only one who has made mistakes around the use of 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 significant 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 area to Atherton, but, his criminal career was interrupted in July 2020 when he was in a first raft of 34 people charged locally after the encrypted phone network was infiltrated by police.

Almost 800 people were arrested across the UK after French officials hacked the Encrochat platform enabling police to read text messages.

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

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

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





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