Rural village's secret £5 million 'dangerous' drugs lab run by Leeds gang members

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A gang involving three Leeds men were found to be running a dangerous makeshift laboratory in a rural village capable of producing more than half a tonne of amphetamine worth £5 million.

Philip Lister and his brother-in-law, Ryan Beer, along with Jordan Russell Blackburn have all been jailed after police uncovered the secret lab in Husthwaite, near Thirsk in North Yorkshire.

In the early hours of April 28, 2020, North Yorkshire Police responded to concerns about suspicious activity taking place at the property. On arrival they found Lister and Beer in the process of manufacturing amphetamine oil, a “significant” amount of hazardous chemicals, noxious vapours coming from the property, laboratory equipment and £20,000 in cash.

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The subsequent investigation found that Lister was using an EncroChat encrypted telephone, which is commonly used by criminals.

Lister (top right) and Beer were jailed for their part in the multi-million-pound drugs operation.Lister (top right) and Beer were jailed for their part in the multi-million-pound drugs operation.
Lister (top right) and Beer were jailed for their part in the multi-million-pound drugs operation.

The resulting investigation by the force’s Organised Crime Unit and Intelligence Bureau led officers to two other suspects, Stephen Henry Singleton from Merseyside and Jordan Russell Blackburn, who were also using EncroChat.

The investigation found that Singleton, who was the director of a chemical company based in St Helens, and Blackburn who was the director of a cleaning solutions company based in West Yorkshire, were leading the operation. Lister was the ‘chef’ producing the drugs with the occasional help from Beer.

Their criminal operation at the time of their arrest was capable of producing 523kg of street-purity amphetamine.

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While only small quantities of amphetamine were found to have been made at the property, 12 barrels of a pre-cursor chemical called MAPA were also present and had that been converted into amphetamine, it would have had a street value of over £5 million

The property had been rented by Lister for £1,100 per month and an outhouse had been converted into the chemical laboratory.

The range of chemicals within the lab presented a risk to the defendants' health, those living close by and the officers who had to dismantle the operation and make the area safe.

Blackburn, 34, of York Road, Leeds, and Beer, 30, of Chandos Mews, Leeds, were found guilty by jury of conspiracy to produce amphetamine at Teesside Crown Court in December 2022. Singleton was also found guilty.

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They were jailed on January 13, but due to an outstanding court case involving Singleton in another area, the case could not be reported until now.

Singleton was jailed for nine years and two months, Blackburn was jailed for eight years and nine months, and Beer was jailed for two years and four months.

Lister, 41, of Wykebeck Avenue, Osmandthorpe, admitted conspiracy to produce amphetamine and money laundering. He was sentenced to four years and four months.

Detective Constable Neil Borchardt from North Yorkshire Police said: “This was a significant criminal enterprise that was disrupted thanks to the suspicions of local people who were concerned about the constant activity at the property and the smell of chemicals emanating from the building.

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“The gang used a criminally-encrypted communication platform at a significant financial cost believing that they could use it to run their criminal activities safely, they were wrong. Along with local residents, and working with the National Crime Agency, North Yorkshire Police Organised Crime Unit was able to disrupt and bring this criminal gang to justice.”