A drug dealer who used an encrypted network to supply cocaine to the North West has been jailed.
Jamie Joseph Veale, 32, from Widnes, used the secretive communications network Encrochat to run his large-scale operation under the handle ‘monstermunchman’.
Encrochat was used by serious crime operations before it was eventually cracked by international law enforcement in May 2020.
Veale, although seemingly unemployed, bragged of staying in luxury villas on long holidays abroad, owned a jet ski and wore designer watches.
After bringing the encrypted communications network down, Cheshire Police became part of a huge operation to crack down on organised crime, led by the National Crime Agency alongside North West Regional Organised Crime Unit and the Crown Prosecution Service.
The operation identified Veale as a suspect. It was discovered that between May 19th and June 13th 2020, Veale used the encrypted chat service to negotiate prices for kilos of cocaine from those who imported the Class A drug in bulk amounts.
He was responsible for the supply of at least 17kg of cocaine.
A warrant was executed for Veale’s address on Monday June 29th 2020, where Cheshire Police found multiple mobile devices, cash, a large amount of designer jewellery and clothing, and drug related paraphernalia.
Veale, of Moorside Road, was arrested and charged with drugs supply offences. He pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs at Liverpool Crown Court and was jailed for 18 years.
Detective Sergeant Christian Gordon said: “Despite having no job, Veale reaped the benefits of his criminal activity, owning luxury items and going on expensive trips abroad.
“He was responsible for the supply of a substantial amount of cocaine and ran his conspiracy through a platform he believed would keep him under the radar.
“But after EncroChat was infiltrated, officers were able to comb through messages attributed to Veale under a codename and collect a catalogue of evidence against him. Thanks to this hard work, he is now facing a lengthy spell behind bars.
“Although this case is now closed, our fight continues against those intent on bringing illegal drugs into our communities.
“If you have any information in relation to drugs offences, please contact us via cheshire.police.uk/tell-us or call 101.”
School bus overturns with motorway closed in both directions
Emergency services, including air ambulance, are in attendance
A coach carrying children from two separate schools has been left on its side following a crash on a major motorway this morning.
The school bus was carrying pupils from Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby School for Girls when the incident happened at around 8am on Friday, September 29th.
A section of the M53 has been closed off in both directions between J5 at Hooton, Cheshire, to J4 at Clatterbridge, in Merseyside. It is believed the bus had struck a reservation on Junction 5 of the motorway.
Calday Grange Grammar School released a statement on its social media page saying: “We are aware of a situation involving one of our school buses on the motorway earlier today.
“We’re actively gathering details and assisting affected students and their families.”
North West Ambulance Service has now declared a major incident, saying in a statement: “North West Ambulance Service has declared a major incident following a road traffic collision between a coach and a car on the M53 northbound at approximately 8.30 this morning.
“The trust dispatched a large number of resources to the scene, including ambulances, advances paramedics, our Hazardous Area Response team and a HEMS doctor.
“So far, one female patient has been taken to the hospital, suffering major trauma-related injuries. There are also nearly 50 other patietns being assessed at the scene. We are working closely with our incident partners to convey people away from the scene as quickly as possible.”
Local Councillor Sherin Akhtar, also confirmed the news and said she was ‘aware children are being taken to hospital as a precaution’.
She wrote in a Tweet: “I can confirm and am aware of an accident on the M53 this morning going towards the Wirral/ Birkenhead.
“It involves a Carvers coach ( W3) travelling to Calday Grange Grammar School and West Kirby Grammar school for girls.
“Whilst this is a live situation, I would like to assure residents that I am working on their behalf and offer support and will endeavour to update, as soon as possible. I am aware that children are being taken to Arrowe Park as precautionary.”
Merseyside Police said in a statement: “We can confirm that emergency services are on the M53 in Hooton following a collision involving a bus on the motorway.
“Just after 8am we received a report that a bus had struck a reservation on Junction 5 of the M53. Junctions 3-5 of the M53 are closed in both directions.
“Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service is currently ensuring the safe removal of passengers and the driver, and North West Ambulance Service are at the scene attending to anyone requiring treatment.
“Motorists are advised to avoid the area and find alternative routes, and we advise people to remain patient while the incident is ongoing. Enquiries are ongoing and updates will be issued as soon as possible.
“Please note this incident is ongoing and we are urging people to refrain from speculating or publishing any sensitive information that could be distressing online or via social media platforms.”
Tributes pour in after body of ‘lovely’ missing man found by police
People have been posting their tributes to Charlie online
Heartfelt tributes have been flooding in across social media platforms after the body of a 26-year-old man from Stockport was discovered by police.
Charlie Johnson, 26, was last seen at around 11.30pm in the Cheadle Hulme area of Stockport on Thursday, September 21st.
Greater Manchester Police launched an appeal to the public to help find him but sadly, officers confirmed they had discovered a body on Tuesday, September 26th during the search.
His next of kin have been informed and a file was passed on to the coroner.
Detective Inspector Michael Jimenez, of Greater Manchester Police, said: “Our thoughts remain with Charlie’s family at this difficult time, and we have specialist officers in place to support them. Thank you to those who shared our appeals.”
Following the tragic news, tributes have been paid online to honour the life of the ‘superb sportsman’ described by those who knew him as ‘a lovely lad’.
AFC Stockport, who Charlie briefly played for last season, posted on Facebook: “It is with sad news that today we say RIP to Charlie Johnson who briefly played for the club last season.
“Charlie netted 9 goals in 7 appearances for our Rangers team. RIP Charlie – Our thoughts are with your family and friends.”
And Bosden Farm FC, based in Stockport, wrote on their Twitter page: “It is with great sadness we report the news on the passing of Charlie he was a huge part of Bosden Farm and was loved by everyone who met him.
“We will miss him so much. We send our condolences to his friends and family and ask that you respect their privacy at this moment in time.”
Upon hearing the sad news, Mary Brooks-Davies wrote: “Heartbroken. Charlie was such a lovely lad, remember him well when he was at primary school with my daughter. Love and gentlest hugs to his family xxxx.”
In a tribute to Charlie, Badhrul Islam wrote: “Taught him as a lad. Can genuinely say none of my colleagues had a bad word to say.
“PE teachers remember him being a superb sportsman with a great attitude. Really well liked all round. Worked with his dad who was a thoroughly nice man. This is desperately sad news.”
Rachel Taylor wrote: “Thinking of all your family and friends at this sad time, RIP Charlie xx.”
And Callum Lawson wrote: “R.I.P Charlie.”
Three Wilko stores in Greater Manchester reopening as Poundland this weekend
Three out of the 10 stores set to reopen this weekend are in Greater Manchester
This weekend, three former Wilko stores will reopen as Poundlands in Greater Manchester.
Following the collapse of Wilko last month, 10 stores are set to reopen as Poundland outlets this weekend, after being bought out by the budget retailer.
Poundland owner Pepco agreed to purchase 71 Wilko stores from administrators PwC earlier this month.
The company plans to rebrand and open them under its own by the end of the year.
Another rival retailer, B&M, bought 51 Wilko stores in a deal of around £5 million, and plans to also reopen them under its own brand.
In Greater Manchester, the three Wilko locations which will be reopening as new Poundland sites are at The Mall on Church Street in Eccles, The Peel Centre, on Great Portwood Street in Stockport, and on Lord Street, in Leigh.
The seven other sites set to reopen this weekend are across Stafford, Nelson, Barking, Southport, Maidenhead, Jarrow and Scunthorpe.
Family-owned company Wilko ran 400 shops and employed around 12,500 staff when it brought in administrators PwC last month. The company, which was founded in 1930, folded under the pressure of cuts in consumer spending, due to the cost-of-living crisis, and debts owed to suppliers.
All Wilko stores will close resulting in thousands of staff redundancies, as its remaining shops shut on October 8th.
Poundland has encouraged Wilko staff to apply for new job roles with its chain and have assured them they will be made a priority.