An international drugs gang ruled by one of Liverpool’s most notorious criminals has been taken out by detectives.

Liam Cornett partied in Marbella and Monte Carlo as he made huge sums from an operation that brought misery to the streets of the UK.

The 29-year-old - nicknamed 'the Lam' - controlled a sprawling network that ran from his Costa del Sol base to estates in Anfield, Hull, Cardiff and Devon.

It was concerns over his connections that led to the armed prison convoy that placed Liverpool’s streets on lockdown twice a day during his trial this summer.

Cornett, who had a home in Huyton, arranged for drugs to be smuggled into the UK and distributed across England and Wales.

Backed by Michael Rice and Kieran Eves, he then helped set up distribution lines from Liverpool to other cities - sometimes working with local criminals, sometimes simply taking over streets hundreds of miles from Merseyside.

Liam Cornett, 29 and of Roby Road in Huyton, was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs
Liam Cornett, 29 and of Roby Road in Huyton, was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs

The investigation that led to their downfall was sparked by - and later involved - two of the most extraordinary incidents in Liverpool’s underworld in recent years.

The first saw a mum accidentally set off a home-made grenade stored on top of a wardrobe at her Dingle home.

The explosion led to emergency services being called to the property, opposite the Tesco on Park Road.

Police officers who attended discovered the device had been part of a criminal stash that included 158kg of amphetamines and just under a kilogram of cocaine, an illicit haul valued at £1.6m .

Drugs seized as part of Operation Anvil
Drugs seized as part of Operation Anvil

The bizarre March 2017 incident started one of the most extensive investigations ever undertaken by the North West Regional Organised Crime Squad.

As detectives unravelled Cornett’s enterprise, Operation Anvil became entwined with Operations Redweed and Germanic - two Devon and Cornwall Police probes already looking at the south coast strands of his plot.

The monitoring of the gang’s activities led to a dramatic armed police stop on Smithdown Road nine months later.

The armed police incident on Smithdown Road (pic via Kelsey Morgan)
The armed police incident on Smithdown Road (pic via Kelsey Morgan)

Response units trapped an Audi outside the Tavern Company restaurant while machine gun-wielding officers arrested three men that had been inside the vehicle.

Those men included Rice, with Rice found to be in possession of a Glock handgun . He was jailed for six years for being armed with the deadly weapon.

The operation continued for almost a further year after those arrests, eventually culminating in Operation Valkyrie - a police strike day that saw homes across the country targeted in dawn raids .

Police cordon on Smithdown Road (pic via Shaun Van de Beek)
Police cordon on Smithdown Road (pic via Shaun Van de Beek)

Since then a series of prosecutions, led by Andrew Thomas, QC, and Henry Riding, have resulted in 28 individuals being sentenced for their roles within Cornett’s plot.

Over the course of Thursday and Friday, 26 of them were jailed for a combined total of more than 200 years at Liverpool Crown Court.

THE GANG

Judge Anil Murray, who presided over two trials and two weeks of mitigation before sentencing gang members at Liverpool Crown described the outfit as "a large, professional, sophisticated, well-planned, well-prepared, successful and persistent operation".

Detective Inspector Paul McVeigh said: "Today marks the end of one of the longest and most extensive investigations ever undertaken by North West Regional Organised Crime Unit.

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"This group went to great lengths to try to avoid detection, including the use of sophisticated mobile phone technology specifically designed to hide their identities . Unfortunately for them, our detectives were one step ahead and able to track their movements and monitor their activities.

"By the end of the investigation, we had analysed five million lines of phone data, representing calls and texts made by the group."

The man at the top: Liam Cornett

Liam Cornett, 29 and of Roby Road in Huyton, was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs
Liam Cornett, 29 and of Roby Road in Huyton, was jailed for 26 years for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs

Known as the Lam, the 29-year-old from Huyton , ran the whole operation.

He spent most of his time living a lavish lifestyle in Spain with no legitimate means of income.

He did not have a hands on role, instead delegating the smuggling, storage and distribution of cocaine, heroin and amphetamines.

He was seen having meetings with underworld connections in Cardiff, Torquay and Exeter.

Cornett partied in the Netherlands and Monaco - where he enjoyed helicopter and Bentley rides.

When he was arrested after flying into Manchester Airport he was wearing a Rolex watch worth more than £50,000.

Cornett was jailed for 26 years and, upon release, will be the subject of a Serrious Crime Prevention Order that severely restricts his access to cash and connections.

Principal organiser: Michael Rice

Michael Rice, 26 and of Moses Street, Dingle, was jailed for 12 years and eight months for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs. This was added on to a six year sentence he is already serving for possession of a handgun.
Michael Rice, 26 and of Moses Street, Dingle, was jailed for 12 years and eight months for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs. This was added on to a six year sentence he is already serving for possession of a handgun.

A trusted lieutenant, Rice travelled frequently to meet associates around the country.

He was described as a "facilitator" who made significant contact with the couriers used by this gang, and controlled the graft phone lines.

The 26-year-old, of Moses Street in Dingle , enjoyed a holiday to Monte Carlo with Cornett that included a helicopter ride.

His involvement in the drugs plot ended when he was caught with a handgun during a dramatic armed police stop on Allerton Road in December 2017.

His 12 year, eight month sentence will run consecutive to the six years he received for possession of that Glock.

Principal organiser: Kieran Eves

Kieran Eves, 28 and of Carriage Close in Hale, was jailed for 13 years and nine months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, burglary, possession with intent to supply and the possession of criminal property.
Kieran Eves, 28 and of Carriage Close in Hale, was jailed for 13 years and nine months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, burglary, possession with intent to supply and the possession of criminal property.

Another  trusted lieutenant, Eves operated at a similar level to Rice.

The 28-year-old, of Carriage Close in Hale, was involved in high-level meetings and organised the arrival of drugs and wielded substantial influence.

He was viewed as sitting just below Rice in the hierarchy.

He was sentenced to a total of 13 years and nine months for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs, burglary, possession with intent to supply  and the possession of criminal property.

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Lead organiser: Craig Gowland

Craig Gowland, 26 and of Corn Street, Dingle, was jailed for 17 years and four months for conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and possession of a stun gun
Craig Gowland, 26 and of Corn Street, Dingle, was jailed for 17 years and four months for conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and possession of a stun gun

A trusted member, Gowland travelled with other key players and had significant telephone contact with others.

He was involved in transferring large amounts of money abroad and the handover of controlled drugs. He controlled a Liverpool-based 'graft' drugs phone and also featured in supply lines to the Hull area.

Gowland, 26 and of Corn Street, Dingle , was jailed for 17 years and four months for conspiracy to supply Class A and B drugs and possession of a stun gun.

Lead organiser: Carl Maddocks

Carl Maddocks, 23 and of South Hill Road, Dingle, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Carl Maddocks, 23 and of South Hill Road, Dingle, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

A close, trusted associate of Cornett, Maddocks featured heavily in the distribution of Class A drugs to Devon and actively worked in the Devon and Cornwall area, where he controlled a courier who made 11 drug trips to Liverpool.

The 23-year-old, of South Hill Road in Dingle , was said to be "intelligent" and the court heard he left university to care for his mum before he became involved in the conspiracy.

He was jailed for 10 years and eight months.

Lead organiser: Bobby Hill

Bobby Hill, 23 qand of Lavrock Bank, Dingle, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Bobby Hill, 23 qand of Lavrock Bank, Dingle, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Hill was with Cornett and Gowland before moving to Plymouth in early 2018, where he was seen to control the Plymouth-based couriers during their 11 identified journeys to Liverpool. He was jailed for eight years and eight months.

Lead organiser: Daryl Clough

Darryl Clough, 29 and of Manifolds Gardens, Plymouth, was jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Darryl Clough, 29 and of Manifolds Gardens, Plymouth, was jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Clough lived in Plymouth and was in close contact with Rice on days of couriering activity between Merseyside and Plymouth.

He was already involved in drug dealing on the south coast when Cornett and Rice met up with him, the group agreeing to work together.

Clough ran the Plymouth arm for Cornett based on his own operation - this was an example where the Liverpool gang worked alongside a local network rather than take their customers from them.

The 29-year-old, of Manifolds Gardens, Plymouth, was jailed for 12 years for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

This sentence will be added to an eight year term he is already serving for false imprisonment after he was part of a gang that kidnapped, tortured and dumped a heroin addict in a river.

Local organiser: Nicholas Corner

Nicholas Corner, 25 and of Moses Street, Dingle, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Nicholas Corner, 25 and of Moses Street, Dingle, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Corner, 25 and of Moses Street in Dingle , was lifelong friend of Bobby Hill and played a key role in the Plymouth operation.

In November 2017 he was detained at Liverpool John Lennon Airport with £25,000 hidden in his luggage. It is thought the cash was being taken to Cornett, who was in Spain at the time.

Surveillance captured him at a Plymouth safehouse 67 times in 12 weeks.

He was jailed for six years and eight months.

Local organiser: Ryan Perry

Ryan Perry, 23 and of Schomberg Street, Kensington, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possession with intent to supply Class A drugs
Ryan Perry, 23 and of Schomberg Street, Kensington, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and possession with intent to supply Class A drugs

Perry, 23 and of Schomberg Street, Kensington, was involved from the outset. He travelled with Cornett to Devon where they made arrangements with Darryl Clough over the Plymouth conspiracy and he was involved in the creation of the Exeter operation.

He was also involved in the Hull operation.

He was jailed for nine years.

Local organiser: Dylan Hamill

Dylan Hamill, 28 and of Aigburth Drive, Sefton Park, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Dylan Hamill, 28 and of Aigburth Drive, Sefton Park, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Hamill, 28 and of Aigburth Drive, was recruited by Cornett to operate the Liverpool graft line, which he took control of after the arrests of Rice and Eves. He was jailed for eight years.

Local Organiser: Luke Stelfox

Luke Stelfox, 24 and of Window Lane, Garston, for conspiuracy to supply Class A drugs
Luke Stelfox, 24 and of Window Lane, Garston, for conspiuracy to supply Class A drugs

Stelfox, 24 and of Window Lane in Garston, acted as a courier, travelling to Exeter by train on the same occasions Cornett and Perry drove down. It was suggested he was carrying the drugs that would be offered as samples as the gang attempted to move into the city.

He became a runner and supplier for the gang oin Exeter, though his involvement is not thought to have lasted more than two months.

He was jailed for nine years.

Local Organiser: Jamie McGivern

Jamie McGivern, 20 and of Richmond Park, Anfield was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Jamie McGivern, 20 and of Richmond Park, Anfield was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

McGivern, 20 and of Richmond Park in Anfield, was an organiser in the Hull and Exeter operations, answering directly to Rice. He was jailed for four years and 10 months.

Local Organiser: Reece Baker

Reece Baker, 21 and of Broom Park, Plymouth, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Reece Baker, 21 and of Broom Park, Plymouth, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Baker, 21 and of Broom Park in Plymouth, was an organiser in the Exeter operation but did take part in some courier runs to Liverpool.

While on bail after being caught with one drugs stash, he left another haul in the back of a taxi. When he rang the firm for his package back he gave his real details. The taxi company had reported the drugs to the police and Baker was arrested.

He was jailed for five years and four months.

Courier: Karl Davenport

Karl Davenport, 35 and of Rockbank Road, Tuebrook, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs
Karl Davenport, 35 and of Rockbank Road, Tuebrook, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A and Class B drugs

Davenport, 35 and of Rockbank Road in Tuebrook, was a courier who took drugs to south Wales and the south coast on behalf of the gang.

He was recorded making 10 trips down from Liverpool, returning with cash on some occasions. He was jailed for seven and a half years.

Courier: John McDonough

John McDonough, 65 and of Speke Road, Speke, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
John McDonough, 65 and of Speke Road, Speke, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

McDonough, 65 and of Speke Road, was recorded making two courier runs to Exeter, where he handed drugs over in the car park of the Royal Devon and Exeter hospital. He was jailed for four years and eight months.

Courier:  Stefan Donovan

Stefan Donovan, 29 and of no fixed abode, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Stefan Donovan, 29 and of no fixed abode, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Donovan, 29 and of no fixed abode, was from the Sale area of Manchester and a friend of Gowland, who recruited him. He was jailed for seven years.

Courier:  Mark Addicott

Mark Addicott, 54 and of Lipson Road, Plymouth, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Mark Addicott, 54 and of Lipson Road, Plymouth, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Addicott, 54 and of Lipson Road, Plymouth, was recruited after the arrest of Davenport.

He was involved in the motor trade and therefore had an excuse for travelling the country.

He made 11 runs, carrying cash and drugs. He was jailed for eight years and nine months.

Courier:  Stephanie Burgess

Stephanie Burgess, 23 and of Lipson Road, Plymouth, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Stephanie Burgess, 23 and of Lipson Road, Plymouth, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Burgess, 23 and also of Lipson Road, accompanied Addicott on six of the courier runs. On the last one, 400 grams of cocaine was found in the camper van they were travelling in. She was jailed for four years.

Street based: William Tucker

William Tucker, 31 and of Hillcrest, Cullompton, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
William Tucker, 31 and of Hillcrest, Cullompton, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Tucker, 31 and of Hillcrest, Cullompton, only had one recorded incident linked to the gang. In December 2017 he was seen to meet Davenport in the car park of a bike shop just outside Exeter.

Police swooped on Tucker and he was found with 248 grams of cocaine on him.

He was jailed for two years and eight months.

Street dealer: Edward Morrin

Eddie Morrin, 43, of no fixed abode, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
Eddie Morrin, 43, of no fixed abode, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Morrin, 43, was a street dealer for the gang in Exeter. He repeatedly sold drugs to undercover officers probing the group. He was jailed for three years and nine months.

Street dealer: David Tape

David Tape, 41 and of Matthews Court in Exeter, was jailed for being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs
David Tape, 41 and of Matthews Court in Exeter, was jailed for being concerned in the supply of Class A drugs

Tape, 41 and of Matthews Court in Exeter, was another street dealer in the Exeter area. He also sold drugs to undercover officers. He was jailed for 33 months.

Street dealer: George Cubbin

George Cubbin, 54 and of Clifton Hill in Exeter, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs
George Cubbin, 54 and of Clifton Hill in Exeter, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs

Cubbin, 54 and of Clifton Hill in Exeter, was  a drug user and a customer of the gang. He had one recorded involvement, when he stepped in to replace Tape for a November 2017 meet up. He was jailed for three years.

Money launderer: Joseph Hill

Joseph Hill, 32 and of Fernie Crescent, Dingle, was jailed for money laundering
Joseph Hill, 32 and of Fernie Crescent, Dingle, was jailed for money laundering

Hill, 32 and of Fernie Crescent, Dingle , is the uncle of Maddocks and cousin of Bobby Hill.

He admitted money laundering in relation to profits made from the street dealing operation.

The court heard he had "outstanding" prison references. He was sentenced to 25 months.

Facilitator: Carl Daniels

Carl Daniels, 35 and of Galleon Court, Newquay, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs
Carl Daniels, 35 and of Galleon Court, Newquay, was jailed for conspiracy to supply Class B drugs

Originally from Liverpool, Daniels, 35 and living in Newquay, organised drugs couriers.

He was jailed for four years and nine months.

*Two other men were also jailed but their identities cannot be revealed due to reporting restrictions.