A drugs gang who set up shop in a Church of England owned house were jailed after inquisitive villagers noticed their suspicious behaviour.

Lester Purdy ran a £500,000 cocaine dealing operation from the rented house in Ide, near Exeter, but attracted the attention of his neighbours because there were so many comings and goings during the first lockdown.

Villagers tipped off the police about cars visiting the former vicarage and seeing Purdy’s son walking to nearby woodland which was being used as a hiding place for huge stashes of cocaine.

The gang also used an outbuilding at nearby Stevens Farm to store cocaine which they diluted to increase their profits and packaged to look as if it was still top quality gear.

Purdy kept deactivated weapons to guard his home and installed high tech tracking devices in his vehicles so he and his son would know if they were ever intercepted by police.

Jailed – Lester Purdy, Jake Purdy and Julian Eslick (Trevor Forbes not pictured)

One of the first things that attracted the notice of villagers was an elaborate system of security cameras which sent images straight to his laptop and may have provided police with evidence if he had not wiped the hard drive just before he was raided in May.

His son was watched by officers as he buried two kilograms of cocaine in woods behind Ide, where the caches were marked with piles of stones or intertwined branches.

The drugs were delivered by a courier from Oxfordshire who was intercepted at Exeter Services on his way home with £75,000 cash he had just picked up.

Purdy and his son used local drug dealer Julian Eslick to sell at least £160,000 of cocaine in and around Exeter, roughly half of which was paid into their joint account by bank transfer.

They used a lockup in Water Lane in the centre of Exeter as a workshop to cut and re-press the cocaine using a hydraulic press. The adulterated it with a cutting agent to reduce its purity from 90 to 70 per cent.

Lester Purdy moved to Devon after being involved in one of the most high profile police shooting incidents in British legal history.

Police activity in Ide

He was the driver of a car which was intercepted in Earls Court in London in 1983 by armed police who believed mistakenly that his passenger Stephen Waldorf was a dangerous fugitive named David Martin.

The mini was targeted because back seat passenger Sue Stevens was thought to be Martin’s girlfriend. Waldorf was seriously injured when he was shot five times but Purdy jumped out of the car to avoid the hail of bullets.

The traumatic experience led him to become addicted to drugs, which in turn led to him becoming a dealer and recruiting his son Jake, who was a world-class Thai boxing champion.

Lester Purdy, aged 67, his son Jake, aged 25, both of Station Road, Ide, and Julian Eslick, aged 46, of Cliff Bastin Close, Exeter, all admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine. Trevor Forbes, aged 58, of Brasenose Driftway, Oxford, admitted conspiracy to transfer criminal property.

Lester Purdy was jailed for seven years and eight months, Jake Purdy for three years and four months, Eslick for four years and Forbes for a year by Judge David Evans at Exeter Crown Court.

POLICE SEARCH BINS AND LOCAL FOLIAGE IN IDE VILLAGE
IRVING OF EXETER POLICE SEARCH BINS AND LOCAL FOLIAGE IN IDE VILLAGE

He told them: ”You used your home and storage units to distribute cocaine for profit in Exeter and it seems you, Lester Purdy, were the organising mind while you, Eslick were trusted to sell to customers and you, Jake Purdy, were your father’s right hand man.

“Lester and Jake Purdy moved into the village of Ide shortly before the start of lockdown in March and this conspiracy continued unabated despite the restrictions on unnecessary movements.”

Miss Heather Hope, prosecuting, said the Purdy’s set up the supply business while living in Water Lane, Exeter and hiring a garage nearby which they used for storage and cutting.

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They moved to a rented house called Foxholes Ide in March and villagers became suspicious about the regular visits from Eslick’s white Mercedes and Jake Purdy’s short trips into the woods. An array of cameras at the house also raised eyebrows with locals.

Jake Purdy became aware that villagers were watching the operation and sent messages encouraging Eslick to be more careful.

Ide

Police saw Jake Purdy meet Forbes on May 11 and direct his car to Foxholes, where he handed over a large consignment of drugs which Jake buried in the woods. They were found to be almost exactly two kilograms.

Forbes was stopped on his way home with £75,000 cash in a bag in the passenger footwell,

Lester Purdy was found with £4,000 cash and a quarter of a kilo of cocaine at the house. His son has a wardrobe full of designer clothing and a Tag Heuer watch.

Mr Brian Fitzherbert, for Lester Purdy, said he had become a drug user after the Stephen Waldorf shooting and is now in poor health.

Mr Kannan Siva, for Jake Purdy, said he had overcome a series of difficulties to become a professional sportsman who reached the top through extraordinary drive and commitment.

Cash belonging to Ide drugs gang
Cash belonging to Ide drugs gang

Mr Joss Ticehurst, for Eslick, said he had been far from the top of the operation and that some of the cash which passed through his bank account was legitimate income.

Mr Will Parkhill, for Forbes, said he only became involved because he agreed to do a favour for his brother, who had a drug debt. He was naïve and had no idea of the scale of what he was involved with.

After the case, Detective Inspector Dave Egan said: “The large-scale operation had a significant impact on the otherwise quiet and safe village of Ide and members of the community have been supportive of the police operation throughout.

“The investigation team have worked tirelessly for over six months since the arrests collating evidence and progressing associated caseloads whilst linking in with the community.

“My thanks and recognition go out to all involved for this result today. The Investigation demonstrates that even during periods of Covid lockdown, Devon and Cornwall Police will continue to safely investigate serious drugs offences and bring offenders to justice.”





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