THE trial of a group of men who are alleged to have run a drugs operation in Chagford, Crediton and Exmouth has been halted.

The jury in the trial were discharged by Judge Stephen Climie for legal reasons and the case at Exeter Crown Court is likely to be re-tried in October next year. 

The case had been running for three weeks before it was halted after the jury had heard the bulk of the prosecution evidence.

During the trial, the prosecution alleged that two dealers from London made regular trips to Devon to supply a network of sub-dealers with large amounts of cocaine. 

The same suppliers were also delivering drugs to Cornwall and Plymouth and Bristol and were allegedly supplying others on the M4 corridor through Berkshire and Wiltshire. 

Police carried out surveillance in Chagford and Crediton and saw suspected dealers meet up to receive consignments of drugs which were delivered by two men who were based in London but made regular trips to the West Country.

One of those who picked up drugs was allegedly supplying customers in Exmouth and East Devon.

The jury were told that some members of the conspiracy have already admitted involvement, including Adi Lleshi and Mark Vasija, aged 27 and 42, from London, and Richard Armitage, aged 41, from Devon, all admitting the conspiracy.

Leum Barrett, aged 33, formerly of Exeter Road, Exmouth, but now of Exeter; Stephen Wills, aged 35, of the Old Quarry, Bridford; Robert Franklin, aged 58, of Thatcham; Jon Brewster, aged 34, of Calne; Paul Cummings, aged 56, of Thatcham; and Matthew Summers, aged 39, of Bournemouth, all deny conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Another man, Jack Robson, formerly of Molyneux Drive, Crediton, but now of Oxfordshire, will be tried later on the same charge.

Mr Richard Posner, prosecuting, said the case is based on the movements of the men, location data from phones, phone evidence of contact between them, tracking of vehicles by numberplate recognition cameras, and direct surveillance observation by police. 

He said the initial conspiracy was ended by the arrest of Vasjja as he prepared to exchange three kilograms of high purity cocaine for £160,000 cash in Bristol in November 2019.

He said: ‘This was the culmination of an investigation into the movement of cocaine from London to the West of England. 

‘There were other locations including Plymouth, Torbay, Penzance, Exeter, Exmouth, Wiltshire and Berkshire.’

Mr Posner said one of the earlier deliveries had been made to Armitage’s former home at Lower Street, Chagford, on November 18, 2019, and that Barrett, Wills and Robson had all been seen to arrive, apparently to pick up supplies.

Lleshi was seen to make a delivery to Crediton four days later with Armitage as a passenger in his car. Barrett was seen to meet them. 

There were further deliveries to the men living in Wiltshire and Berkshire in the following days with Vasija and Lleshi making regular trips to the region.

All the defendants deny being involved with the conspiracy and some say they were customers rather than dealers.

The trial ended before any of the defendants had a chance to give evidence to the jury.