Drug gang torched cars and smashed buildings of those who owed them money


A gang of five drug dealers firebombed cars and smashed the windows of properties owned by people who owed them money.

The four men and one teenage boy torched vehicles and broke shop and restaurant windows in a six week campaign of terror.

Charlie Banks, 24, Haydyn Russell, 18, James McKenna and Bradley Froud, both 19, as well as a 17-year-old boy carried out the rampage across three seaside towns in East Sussex.

The gang, who sold cocaine, cannabis, ketamine and MDMA, were sentenced at Lewes Crown Court this week.

The four men were jailed for a total of more than 21 years, while the boy was banned from East Sussex for three years.

Five gang members firebombed cars and vandalised houses to intimidate.

One of the group was caught with videos of the cars they set alight on his phone and photos of smashed restaurant windows as well as the lighter fluid used to start the blazes.

The campaign started on June 3 last year when windows of a restaurant in Hastings were smashed in the early hours of the morning.

On June 27, smoke grenades were set off in a shop and shelves were smashed in neighbouring St Leonards.

Little over a week later, a car parked outside a house in Rye, 15 miles away, was torched.

The quick-thinking owner was able to move the car away from the building to stop the fire spreading, according to police.

Four days later a van parked outside the same address was also deliberately set alight by the gang.

The next day another car parked outside a different home in Rye set on fire and a window of the building smashed.

Then two days later another car was set alight outside a house in nearby Peasmarsh, said police.

Investigators discovered all these attacks were the gang’s method of striking fear into people who had apparently not paid their drug debts.

PC Ciaran Gaymer, of Sussex Police’s Hastings Community Investigations Team, said: ‘These men caused significant harm to our district, both through the supply and distribution of harmful drugs, and through their subsequent violent offending.

Ringleader Banks had contacted the victims before the attacks, demanding money or attempting to sell them drugs, police said.

Froud was arrested after being stopped by police driving through St Leonards and failing a roadside drugs wipe for cocaine and cannabis.

When police searched his car they found bottles of white spirit and lighter fluid, as well as videos of vehicles being set on fire and windows being smashed.

This included footage of the attack on the shop in St Leonards.

Froud’s phone also showed messages between him and McKenna discussing drug supply.

Then McKenna’s home was raided last August and a large amount of class A, B and C drugs were found, including 19 grams of methamphetamine and 30.2 grams of cocaine. Metro reports.

His phone also had messages about cocaine, cannabis, LSD, MDMA, ketamine, and showed McKenna recruiting others to carry out criminal damage for cash.

Russell’s DNA was found on a hammer left behind at the Hastings restaurant vandalism, while forensic examination of the smoke grenades used to target the St Leonards shop connected the 17-year-old suspect to the scene.

The 17-year-old boy was also found with a photo linked to the car fire in Rye and he admitted being driven to the scene.

This getaway car belonged to Froud and his vehicle was also found near the van and car arsons in Rye.

Police had already caught Banks with cannabis and cash when cops raided his home in November 2019 and he was under investigation when the arson began.

Messages discussing cocaine and cannabis supply were uncovered on Banks’s mobile phone, Sussex Police said.

Around a year later, police stopped a vehicle in Rye, where Banks was in the passenger seat and found with coke.

Another phone found on him showed messages about cocaine, of amounts up to 500 grams at a time, as well as cannabis.

PC Gaymer said: ‘Charlie Banks was found to have a leading role in this criminal activity and targeted people who he believed were indebted to him, using violence and the threat of violence to create terror.

‘The other defendants were willingly involved in executing those threats and continuing to ensure the supply of drugs into the community.

‘This has been a long and complex investigation but to see these men behind bars and a serious organised crime gang disrupted is a huge relief to the victims, to us, and to the wider community.’

Banks, from Rye, was jailed for eight years and six months after he admitted conspiracy to commit arson recklessly endangering life, conspiracy to supply cannabis as well as class A and B drugs, plus dealing cocaine at an earlier hearing.

McKenna, of Bexhill, East Sussex, was sentenced to five years and two months in prison.

Froud, of St Leonards, was handed a four-year prison sentence by the judge.

Russell, of St Leonards, was sent down for three years and six months after admitting conspiracy to commit arson recklessly endangering life.

The 17-year-old boy from Buckinghamshire, who the court ordered cannot be named, avoided jail despite admitting conspiracy to commit arson recklessly endangering life, conspiracy to commit criminal damage and possession of cannabis.

He was handed a 36-month youth rehabilitation order to include 160 hours of unpaid work, a six-month curfew, and banned from entering East Sussex for 36 months.

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Ola Alabi
Ola Moses is a certified writer, He writes technically and creatively. He is the CEO of WORDSWORTH, a house where writing is made easier for all. He is a content creator at EsB TV, since 2019. He is a young man that showcases professionalism in all that he does, he was announced as Child and Green Foundation Person of the Year 2018, one of his many lists of honours.


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