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Combined sentence of 40 years for drug gang trafficking cocaine in Swansea and Llanelli

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Eight people have been jailed as part of an organised crime gang which trafficked cocaine worth almost £200,000 into Llanelli over a five-month period.

Dyfed-Powys Police’s Serious and Organised Crime Team dismantled the gang which was transporting the class ‘A’ drug between Swansea, Pontarddulais and Llanelli in a covert operation named ‘Operation Elegant’.

The operation resulted in more than 2kg of cocaine being supplied by the gang.

Nine defendants, including one who will be sentenced at a later date, admitted their involvement in the conspiracy to supply cocaine between May and October 2020. The eight sentenced so far have  been jailed for a total of 40 years.

Detective Constable Mark Jones, Op Elegant lead officer, said: “This was a lengthy operation involving a number of departments across the force, who investigated intelligence, coordinated a series of warrants, interviewed the defendants and carried out detailed enquiries into their activity.

“Today’s sentencing culminates more than a year of police work, which saw the disruption of a major supply chain into Llanelli and the dismantling of an organised crime gang, which was no doubt linked to illegal behaviour on a wider scale.”

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DC Jones explained that the Llanelli gang was headed up by 27-year-old Shaun Hearne, who put together a team of trusted associates to move, store, prepare and distribute cocaine throughout Llanelli.

When restrictions imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic impacted the availability of the drug, Hearne was not deterred, and approached 25-year-old Aaron Hookway, a Swansea dealer, to source it.

This proved successful, as enquiries revealed the gang bought drugs from upstream supplier Hookway on 13 occasions, using 36-year-old Rebecca Viola’s home in Felinfoel as a stash house to store the commodity.

From there, couriers and sub-dealers Laura Coelho, Neville Ayres, Jordan Dale Parry, Keiran Price and Daniel Rhodri Evans were responsible for distributing the drugs.

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“Through our investigation, we discovered that the gang was made up of a number of people acting as couriers and sub-dealers in various areas across Llanelli, directed by Hearne,” DC Jones said.

“Our first step in disrupting their activity was in stopping a car driven by Neville Ayres on 1st September, 2020, during which uniformed officers seized 10 ounces of cocaine.

“Ayres was a trusted employee of Hearne, who had such a blasé attitude towards his illegal behaviour that he had this huge amount of cocaine – worth more than £22,000 – in plain sight in the footwell of his car”.

“Despite this upset, the gang continued with their activity for another month, when we targeted all members with 15 warrants carried out across Llanelli.”

The week-long enforcement phase saw 13 people arrested, with searches also carried out at homes in Swansea, Ceredigion and Cornwall.

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Nine of those arrested were charged with being involved in a conspiracy to supply cocaine. All nine admitted the offence, and eight of them received the following sentences on Monday 6th September 2021 and Tuesday 7th September 2021 at Swansea Crown Court:

  • Head of Llanelli gang Shaun Hearne, aged 27, of Isgraig, Burry Port: 8 years 8 months.
  • Swansea ‘upstream’ dealer Aaron Hookway, aged 25, of Station Road, Fforestfach: 9 years.
  • Courier and Hearne’s partner Laura Coelho, aged 28, of Bond Avenue, Llanelli: 2 years 5 months.
  • Llanelli courier and sub-dealer Neville Ayres, aged 42, of West End, Llanelli: 4 years 9 months.
  • Felinfoel storage and sub-dealer Rebecca Viola, aged 36, of Cae Glas, Llanelli: 4 years.
  • Llanelli sub-dealer Jordan Dale Parry, aged 25, of Dilwyn Street, Llanelli: 3 years 4 months.
  • Llanelli courier Keiran Price, aged 28, of Tirgoff, Llangennech: 4 years 10 months.
  • Llwynhendy sub-dealer Daniel Rhodri Evans, aged 29, of Heol Elfed, Llanelli: 3 years.

The ninth, Llanelli courier Jeffrey Parker-Ward, aged 23, of Stepney Street, will be sentenced at a later date.

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As part of the operation, a number of high-value vehicles were seized, along with £11,000 in cash.

Further work is now being carried out as part of a proceeds of crime act investigation, aimed at confiscating criminal assets gained through illegal activities.

“The sentences of a total of 40 years in prison is a testament to the work that was put into this investigation,” DC Jones said.

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“Not only have we taken a substantial amount of cocaine out of the supply chain, but we have disrupted the supply into Llanelli, where it would have caused an untold amount of harm to the community.

“I would like to thank all officers involved for their hard work, determination and commitment with HH Judge Rees commenting that the investigation was commendably executed. I would like to reassure the public that we will continue to act on all concerns over drugs use and abuse.”

BCU Commander for Carmarthenshire Gary Phillips said: “The sentences handed out at Swansea Crown Court are not only a reflection of the significant effort that has been put into this police investigation, but they also send a clear message that being involved in serious and organised crime in Carmarthenshire will ultimately lead to you being targeted by police and put before the courts.”

(Lead image: Dyfed Powys Police)

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Art

Carmarthenshire Museum reopens for National Gallery painting exhibition

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It will be the first time the museum has been open to the public since 2020 when it closed for phase one of improvement, funded by Carmarthenshire County Council.

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People will be able to visit from Saturday to see Jean-Siméon Chardin’s ‘The House of Cards’, a painting from the National Gallery’s masterpiece collection, which was painted by the 18th century French artist in around 1740–1.

Carmarthenshire Museum was chosen by the National Gallery as one of only three museums in the UK to exhibit part of its collection.

The museum, in Abergwili, re-opens following completion of the first phase of restoration by Carmarthenshire County Council which has invested significantly to create a better environment for museum collections.  

The expansive programme of phased works includes roof repairs, two new galleries, re-building of the chimneys and decorative stonework.

Phase one involved making the historic landmark building watertight, installing a new roof, restoring stonework on the front of the building, repairing over 100 windows, restoring the iconic lantern window over the museum’s central hall and the distinctive carved stone porch – both legacies of the building’s past as the palace of the Bishops of St Davids.

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The museum also has a new shop to showcase gifts inspired by the museum collections and regional crafts and will open next week.

The museum entrance has also been adapted and is fully accessible with a gentle ramp and a power assisted outer door. Other sensitive modernisations have also been carried out.

Phase two of the ongoing restoration works is well underway and involves upgrading two galleries on the ground floor.  

This work, funded by Welsh Government, is expected to be completed by Easter.

The final phase will focus on smaller projects throughout the museum and the park and will get underway later this year.

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During the museum’s closure, the surrounding Bishop’s Park has also undergone a transformation under the management of the Tywi Gateway Trust, featuring accessible pathways, landscaping, interpretation, and planting after the council granted £300,000 towards the cost of developing disused outbuildings into a vibrant visitor centre and café within the museum grounds. 

Carmarthenshire County Council’s Cabinet Member for Culture, Sport and Tourism, Cllr Peter Hughes Griffiths, said: “A huge amount of restoration work has been already done and is continuing at Carmarthenshire Museum, and we are working towards a completion date later this year.

“We are pleased that we have been able to complete phase one of these works just in time to host this magnificent painting as part of the National Gallery’s Masterpiece Tour.

“We wanted to be able to welcome visitors back as soon as was possible so we kindly ask our visitors to bear with us as we complete the rest of the phased restoration works that are underway at the museum. Investing in our museums and engaging in cultural activity has a demonstrable positive impact on starting well, living well and ageing well.

“Our museums are the family photobook of the history of our county, documenting where we’ve come from and helping to shape the unique cultural identity of our future generations.”

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(Lead. image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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Carmarthen

New special care baby unit opens at Carmarthen’s Glangwili Hospital

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A new specialist unit to care for some of the most vulnerable newborn babies has officially opened at Glangwili Hospital, Carmarthen.

The new Special Care Baby Unit (SCBU) is part of a £25.2m Welsh Government investment into a new development scheme to obstetric and neonatal facilities at the hospital and will serve families across mid and west Wales.

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The state-of-the-art unit has been purpose built with the focus being on the baby and their family, and the neonatal team.

The new family friendly unit will continue to provide high dependency and special care level of care to premature and unwell newborn babies with improved facilities and modern technology.

The clinical space meets national guidance which respects family privacy and dignity. There are four en suite overnight rooms for parents and a family sitting room.

The clinical area and the staff facilities will improve the working environment for the neonatal team and will be beneficial to their wellbeing. The new facilities include an appropriate area for teaching and multi-disciplinary working.

Minister for Health and Social Services, Eluned Morgan, said: ”The new facilities will support families during a time when they need it most. I’m pleased that Welsh Government funding has been used to create the new centre and will provide state of the art facilities for the community and for the neonatal team to provide vital care.”

Steve Moore, Chief Executive, Hywel Dda University Health Board thanked all involved in the project: “It’s wonderful to see the new unit open for babies and their families.

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“The improved facilities are part of our continued investment in women and children’s services and will provide a much enhanced environment for special care babies across Carmarthenshire, Ceredigion and Pembrokeshire.

“I wish to personally thank everyone involved in this project for their dedication and hard work over recent years. I also extend our heartfelt gratitude to all those who have contributed to equipment for the unit through incredible fundraising efforts and generous donations. Thank you all.”

Lisa Humphrey, Interim General Manager for Women and Children’s Services, Hywel Dda University Health Board commented: “As project director I would like to thank all of the parents, staff and the contractors for their contribution to the delivery of this scheme.

“Having an up-to-date unit enhances the delivery of high quality care that the team already provide in an environment that improves well-being for babies, their families and staff.”

Karen Jones, Senior Nurse, Special Care Baby Unit added: “We would like to thank families who have kindly donated money to enable us to purchase medical equipment such as oxygen monitors and a monitor to assist with monitoring brain activity. We have also purchased items for the family and staff sitting rooms and furnishings for the quiet room.

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“The neonatal team are looking forward to moving into the new unit, which is spacious and light with excellent facilities for staff and parents. The environment is much improved from the previous SCBU with lovely facilities for parents to be close to their babies.”

The next stage in the project, which will see the opening of the new Maternity Ward, is expected to be completed in spring 2022.

(All images: Hywel Dda NHS)

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Carmarthenshire

Halfway point reached in Tyisha estate demolition say council

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Work to demolish the Four Tys housing block in Tyisha to make room for a modern, mixed-use housing development is well underway Carmarthenshire County Council have said.

Empty spaces can already be seen where the former run-down Ty Meriel and Ty Liz buildings stood with further demolition of Ty Howard and Ty Cydwel continuing over the coming weeks.

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The work, which forms part of Carmarthenshire County Council’s exciting plans to transform the area, will enable the build of much needed homes as well as upgrading existing ones, creating community facilities and green space.

Cllr Linda Davies Evans, chair of the Transforming Tyisha steering group and cabinet member for housing says regenerating the Tyisha ward and the wider Llanelli town centre area which is undergoing massive investment is vital to serve the needs of the community.

“Work is going at a steady pace and seems to be well received by local who are engaging with our contractors. We have 24hr security in place and noise monitoring is carried out periodically. Once these buildings are completely down we can then start looking at redeveloping the site and breathing new life into this area,” she said.

In November last year the council invited expressions of interest from potential partners to work with them to develop new housing a create a vibrant community. These applications are now being considered.

The demolition of the ‘Four Tys’ forms part of the council’s Transforming Tyisha project which looks to regenerate the area through increasing community safety, developing housing and community facilities and improving the environment.

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(Lead image: Carmarthenshire Council)

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