Police discover £300k worth of cocaine hidden underground during drugs bust as used tissue connects gang

2 April 2024, 16:31 | Updated: 2 April 2024, 16:39

Police discover £300k worth of cocaine hidden underground during drugs gang bust following dangerous driving
Police discover £300k worth of cocaine hidden underground during drugs gang bust following dangerous driving. Picture: Avon & Somerset Police

By Danielle De Wolfe

The moment police brought down a drugs gang has been captured on camera, after bad driving and a used tissue led to 1.5 kilos of cocaine being discovered buried underground beneath a plastic bin lid.

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The three men and one woman were handed prison sentences totalling more than 20 years after cops unravelled a web linking members of the group to a haul totalling nearly half a million pounds.

The seizures, made by Avon and Somerset Police over a six month period, included stun guns, large quantities of cocaine and cash, as well as cannabis, drug paraphernalia and other weapons.

Austen Barnes-Sargeant, 31, Carlie Bridges, 35, Kyle Joyner, 30, and Paul O’Shea, 41, were sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on March 28 for their involvement in the illegal drugs ring.

A web of text messages ultimately led police to connect the four drugs suppliers, after officers initially pulled over Barnes-Sargeant in Filton, South Gloucestershire, on March 9 last year following concerns over his erratic driving.

Avon and Somerset Police complete drugs bust

The initial roadside stop also saw Barnes-Sargeant fail a roadside drugs test, a incident which saw him later handed a 12-month driving ban in October 2023.

However, police searching his vehicle also discovered approximately £3,000 in cash, cocaine and cannabis.

A later search of his home address produced more class A and class B drugs, alongside a further £4,000 in cash and a stun gun.

In a separate incident, a search warrant was issued for Barnes' address on Fitzroy Street, south Bristol, two months later on 26 May, 2023.

A police search found a cannabis plant and small quantities of the class B drug at the address, however, a wheelie bin parked outside the property was found to contain a bag, with cocaine worth around £70k, a knife and drugs paraphernalia inside.

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It also contained a tissue, which connected Bridges to Joyner, and text messages found on Bridges' phone linked him to the supply of cannabis.

However, it wasn't until August 3, nearly two months later, that police were able to join the dots.

The three men and one woman were handed prison sentences totalling more than 20 years after cops unravelled a web linking members of the group to a haul totalling nearly half a million pounds.
The three men and one woman were handed prison sentences totalling more than 20 years after cops unravelled a web linking members of the group to a haul totalling nearly half a million pounds. Picture: Avon and Somerset Police

Police stopped an Audi being driven by Barnes-Sargeant – who was on bail while enquiries into his other drugs offences were still ongoing and prior to his ultimate driving disqualification – in Bristol.

He was found to be in possession of around half a kilo of cocaine.

Police then swooped on O'Shea in a separate operation on the same day, with his BMW found to contain two 1 kilo blocks of cocaine.

The web was finally closed when Police found that both had been in contact with Joyner that day prior to the two stops.

A search of Joyner’s address then found a further 1.5kg of cocaine, which he’d attempted to hide underground beneath a bin lid and a bag of compost.

Joyner, 30, was arrested at a hotel room in Kent two days later.

A search of Joyner’s address then found a further 1.5kg of cocaine, which he’d attempted to hide underground beneath a bin lid and a bag of compost.
A search of Joyner’s address then found a further 1.5kg of cocaine, which he’d attempted to hide underground beneath a bin lid and a bag of compost. Picture: Alamy

Detective Chief Inspector Ben Lavender, from Avon & Somerset Police, said: “These sentences concludes a significant policing operation targeting this group of people who were supplying cocaine to the streets of Bristol.

"Evidence was found to show their operation was worth hundreds of thousands of pounds as they sought to profit from other people’s misery brought on by drug use.

“We welcome these prison sentences and will continue to robustly target those involved in drug supply to protect the public and keep our communities safe.

"If you suspect someone in your area is involved in the supply of drugs, please report it to us on 101, or via our online reporting system.”

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