Shameless Kettering drugs gang who exploited children given 124 years behind bars

They were caught after one of the UK’s biggest county lines child exploitation operations

Friday, 24th September 2021, 3:01 pm
Updated Friday, 1st October 2021, 12:29 pm
A sniffer dog searching Matthew Hall's home.

More than a dozen members of an organised crime gang which peddled drugs onto the streets of Kettering and exploited children are now staring at the walls of a prison cell.

In what was one of the UK's biggest county lines busts, the criminals were all arrested in a huge three-day operation across Northamptonshire and London in 2019 involving more than 250 officers.

The gang ran the Kay Line, which at the time posed the highest gang risk in the county, actively recruiting and grooming county children to facilitate class A drug dealing in the town.

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But after an operation meticulously planned over 18 months - known as Operation Serpent - 17 people are now where they belong and serving a combined 124 years behind bars with two others given community orders.

Detective Inspector Alan Rooney, who led the operation, said: "This group were a highly organised, London-based gang, which had formed a network of drug dealers and associates in Kettering which they were using to target and recruit young people to supply drugs on their behalf while holding them in servitude.

"Drug dealers often falsely perceive their lifestyle to be one of glamour and honour - something for others to be envious of.

“However in reality it is the lifestyle of low lives, ones so low that they take advantage of vulnerable children, consistently putting them at risk while they sit safely in their homes, counting the cash.

Police smash their way into Matthew Hall's house.

“There is absolutely no honour in this and if you are so shameless and contemptable to use children in this way, we will come for you and take you down as we have done so here.”

This newspaper joined police on the second day of the operation in June, which saw eight simultaneous warrants executed at homes in Kettering.

We watched as officers carried out an early morning raid at a family home in Gotch Road, Barton Seagrave, smashing a window before bursting inside and arresting Matthew Hall.

Hall was led away in handcuffs as a drug dog searched the house, sniffing everything from cupboards to children's toys to see if any suspicious substances were present.

He's now been sentenced to 14 years and six months in prison.

Other raids across the town proved a success, as did five warrants in Hillingdon and Ealing in north-west London the previous day. A total of £5,000 in cash as well as class A and B drugs, knives and a corrosive substance were seized as part of subsequent searches of the addresses.

On day three, warrants were executed at four more Kettering addresses and one in Thrapston, leading to the arrests of seven more people.

All 19 people charged in connection with the operation have now been sentenced after a series of linked trials at Birmingham Crown Court.

They are:

Zayne Connell-Donaldson, 31, previously of Highfield Close, Hillingdon, London, sentenced to 12 years and nine months for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to supply crack cocaine and possession of an offensive weapon.

Sharon Donaldson, 55, of Highfield Close, Hillingdon, London, sentenced to 14 years for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to supply crack cocaine, refusing to disclose a mobile phone password, possession of an offensive weapon & possession of a firearm (CS spray).

James Atkinson, 30, previously of Lewis Close, Northolt, sentenced to five years and one month for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Matthew Hall, 42, previously of Gotch Road, Barton Seagrave, sentenced to 14 years and six months for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Darren Caves, 44, previously of Hazelwood Court, Kettering, sentenced to eight years and four months for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Randeep Rayat, 39, of no fixed abode, sentenced to nine years for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Julie Robinson, 60, of no fixed abode, sentenced to four years and six months for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Roger Curtis, 46, previously of Kettering, sentenced to eight years and four months for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Richard Justice, 39, previously of Northumberland Road, Kettering, sentenced to eight years and four months for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Christopher Foster, 41, of no fixed abode, sentenced to nine years for conspiring to arrange or facilitate persons under 18 with a view to their exploitation, conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Georgia Wornes, 20, previously of Vanbrough Crescent, Northolt, Ealing, handed a two-year community order for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Sam Coleman, 23, of no fixed abode, sentenced to five years and seven months for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Lester Booth, 21, of no fixed abode, sentenced to three years and four months for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Leonard Booth, 26, of no fixed abode, sentenced to five years and four months for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Matthew Stevens, 21, previously of Charles Court, Kettering, sentenced to three years and seven months for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Suraj Kumar (AKA Mal), 47, previously of St John's Road, Kettering, sentenced to five years and four months for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Perry Norman, 40, previously of Treen Close, Thrapston, sentenced to five years and one month for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Charlene Ellis, 36, previously of Northumberland Road, Kettering, was handed an 18-month community order for conspiracy to supply heroin and conspiracy to supply crack cocaine.

Simon Mitchell, 31, previously of Gotch Road, Barton Seagrave, was found not guilty of this conspiracy but pleaded guilty to being concerned in the supply of class A drugs in Liverpool. He was sentenced to two years and three months.

Assistant Chief Constable Simon Blatchly said: “This was an outstanding operation led by Det Insp Alan Rooney and thanks to his hard work, we have secured our first convictions for child exploitation in this county.

“The result of this operation sends a clear message that we will go beyond our county’s borders in order to take down the people who come here to try and cause harm.

“I’d like to thank everyone involved for their hard work and diligence as well as their continuing commitment to fight crime and protect people in Northamptonshire.”