JURORS took less than three-and-a-half hours to acquit a Swindon man of involvement in a gang that flooded Swindon with cocaine.

Jacob Hunt, 31, was said by prosecutors to be part of a group of six men – one of whom was just 16-years-old at the time – involved in the supply of class A drugs.

The former Wroughton man, who now lives near Bath, had already admitted dealing large quantities of cannabis – but denied dipping his fingers into the cocaine trade. Five have already pleaded guilty to their part in the conspiracy.

Hunt’s trial, which began at Swindon Crown Court last week, came to an end on Monday with jurors unanimously finding him not guilty on Monday afternoon.

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Swindon Crown Court

The case for the prosecution

Prosecutor Kelly Brocklehurst told jurors last week that the conspiracy spanned Bristol and Swindon.

There were two “linkmen”: Kyle Rigley at the Swindon end and Ashley Hunt in Bristol.

On October 9, 2018, police surveillance officers were tailing 28-year-old Rigley and pal Jack Young, 29, after a tip-off.

Rigley went to Young’s  flat in Cherhill Court, Moredon, then they headed to Bristol together. As they shopped at Cabot Circus, officers spotted Young using his phone at around 6pm, with analysis of call data showing the man had telephoned a number linked to Swindon drugs line “JD”.

There were further calls between Young and Jacob Hunt – together with messages from then 16-year-old Arney Stead asking Young if he could “grab it”. Young replied: “Yo, G, I’m in Briz. The ting waiting for me, bro.”

Young spent £770 on tracksuits and trainers in JD Sports then returned to his red 2009-plate Peugeot with Rigley.

The men were tailed to Repton Road, in Bristol’s Brislington suburb, where they waited outside a William Hill bookmaker’s shop.

Ashley Hunt, the Bristol linkman texted Kyle Rigley two words just before 7.10pm: “10 mins”. Eight minutes later, Young called Jacob Hunt. Rigley called Ashley Hunt, 31, who called his co-conspirator at the Bristol end, 31-year-old Nicholas Bullock. Ashley Hunt phoned Rigley, records showed. Bullock then called Ashley Hunt.

At around 7.30pm, Bullock arrived in a white van. He walked over to the red Peugeot with a jumper covering a shoebox-sized parcel. When he returned to the van he was no longer carrying the parcel, police noted.

Rigley and Young headed home. As they drove, Jacob Hunt made a three-minute call to Young’s phone.

At 8pm, as the red Peugeot got onto Great Western Way from Junction 16, police took the decision to pull the two suspected dealers over.

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Cocaine found in the red Peugeot Picture: CPS WESSEX

The Peugeot tried to get away but was rammed off the road outside John Lewis near the Mannington roundabout by a traffic officer.

Detectives found 124g of high purity cocaine – at 81 per cent purity – in a footwell. They also found parts from a hydraulic press.

At Rigley’s home in Selwood Close, near the Ocotal Way Tesco, police uncovered a crack kitchen, with evidence that someone had been “cooking” cocaine to create “rocks” of crack cocaine.

Quizzing officer in the case Det Sgt Neil Hilton, Mr Brocklehurst said: “It clearly wasn’t cakes they were baking.” The officer – part of Wiltshire Police’s serious and organised crime squad – replied: “They didn’t have any baking tins.”

Also at the house was the cutting agent phenacetin and the other parts of the press, which had apparently been modified so it could compress smaller blocks of cocaine.

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The crack cocaine kitchen at Rigley's home in Selwood Close Picture: CPS WESSEX

Later that evening, as Young and Rigley were held in police cells, Jacob Hunt made a number of calls to Young.

Opening the case to the jury, Mr Brocklehurst said: “What the phone evidence showed, more significantly for this trial, is Mr Young was with rather regularity on October 9 during that deal in Repton Road there was a stream of contact or attempted contact between Mr Young and this Mr Hunt. The Crown say that is not a coincidence when looked at in the context of this case as a whole.”

Arrests and cash

On November 28, 2018, Arney Stead was arrested for an unrelated matter. His phone was seized. On it, police found Jacob Hunt’s number – ending 769 – and the number for Jack Young.

Around a week later, on December 3, 2018, surveillance officers watched Young visit Jacob Hunt’s family home in Woodland View, Wroughton.

Around two hours later Young was picked up in a hire car driven by a Jordan McGovern and taken to a street around 30m away from where Stead lived in Dixon Street, Eastcott.

Police could not see what happened. However, when the car was stopped later that evening, police found Young and McGovern in the vehicle together with £4,290 and three phones.


Police were back on the men’s tail on December 12, 2018, watching as Young visited Hunt’s home in Woodland View.

This time Hunt joined Young as he was picked up in a Mini driven by a Jamie Milligan. They went to the McDonald’s in Bridgemead, where police took the decision to haul them in. The driver of the Mini tried to get away, clipping a number of other cars in his attempt to escape. The getaway bid failed and the three men were arrested.

Detectives searched the Woodland View home. In the garage they found cannabis, digital scales with traces of cannabis and cocaine on them, and two boxes of ring pull cans – apparently used by Hunt to package his cannabis. In his bedroom was an ounce of high purity cocaine worth an estimated £1,250, along with £2,940 in cash. It emerged photographs were not taken by police of items in situ.

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McDonald's Bridgemead Picture: ADVER PHOTOGRAPHER

At the Cherhill Court flat linked to Young, police discovered a further £2,399 and expensive designer clothing.

On December 14, 2018, detectives raided the Dixon Street home Arney Stead shared with his mum. In his bedroom were four balls of white powder, each weighing roughly an eighth of an ounce – known in the drugs trade as an “eight ball”. Also found were digital scales, cannabis, £2,295 cash and designer clothing worth £8,000.

Police moved in on the Bristol conspirators on December 20, raiding a lockup linked to Nicholas Bullock and Ashley Hunt. Inside was £37,000-worth of cocaine and a leger pointing to the two men shifting roughly a kilo of cocaine a week. The men’s homes were raided; Bullock had £11,464 in cash while Hunt had £9,450.

Earlier handover

Analysis of the men’s phones pointed to another handover in Bristol on October 3, Mr Brocklehurst said.  Rigley was said to have met Bullock – with Young staying in Swindon. Jacob Hunt played no part in the exchange.

Drugs messages

Put in the witness stand, Wiltshire Police drugs expert Det Con George Booth said messages found on the alleged conspirators’ phones was, in his mind, consistent with them supplying cocaine and cannabis.

Particular focus came to rest on a number of messages sent by and to Jacob Hunt, the man in the dock this week.

They included a message asking Hunt: “Can you do a whole one?” The reply came: “1250 bro.”

Prosecutors claimed a “whole one” was a reference to an ounce of cocaine, arguing that any other quantity of cannabis would not come in at £1,250. An ounce of cannabis would retail for significantly less, while a “whole” kilogramme of the class B drug could sell for anywhere between £5,000 and £6,500.

However, barrister Tom Edwards, for Hunt, took Det Con Booth through messages in the Crown’s case that suggested prices of £5,100 were being quoted for a kilogramme of cannabis. The equivalent price for a quarter of a kilo – or 9oz, variously referred to by dealers as a “niner” or “nine bar” – would be £1,250.  The officer said: “That would be the figure.” However, he said he had not come across the phrase “whole one” in relation to fractions of weights, only whole weights like an ounce or a kilo.

Mr Edwards pointed out that the officer had mixed up two people’s names in his analysis of one phone exchange. Prosecutor Kelly Brocklehurst asked Det Con Booth: “Does the fact you’ve got one sent and received the wrong way round give you cause to revisit any of your findings. The detective replied: “My opinion of the case hasn’t changed. The messages I’ve seen remain wholly consistent with the supply of cannabis and cocaine.”

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Jacob Hunt outside Swindon Crown Court


Hunt’s case from day one was that he dealt cannabis and only cannabis. A mid-ranking supplier, he would travel as far afield as the Midlands and Cornwall to sell the class B drugs, his lawyers said.

The cocaine found in a box in his bedroom belonged to Young. That claim was apparently backed up by Young himself, who gave a signed witness statement to Hunt’s lawyers stating that a warrant was out for his arrest, he’d been staying with his friend in Wroughton and had left the ounce of cocaine in the bedroom.

Young wrote: “I know that Jacob used to sell weed as I used to sell it to him. He didn’t have anything to do with the supply of class A drugs as far as I am aware.”

Hunt’s friend added that he would be happy to attend court to provide evidence. However, lawyers for the defendant told jurors that efforts had been made to summons Young to court but he’d refused to leave his cell at HMP Bullingdon.

Notwithstanding that fact, Hunt’s lawyer Tom Edwards said all the evidence in the Crown’s case pointed to his client dealing in cannabis rather than cocaine.

Closing his case to the jury, Mr Edwards pointed to the language used by Hunt in his texts to others in the conspiracy. A “whole one” – mentioned in a conversation between Hunt and Arney Stead - could refer to a “whole nine bar” in other words a 9oz deal of cannabis. In the witness stand, Hunt spoke of dealing in “a bar, half a bar, Qs [quarter bars]”. Mr Edwards said: “Mr Hunt is no Shakespearean actor and when he gave you that line of ‘a bar, half a bar, Qs’ [you might think] he was saying it exactly how he might have been back in 2018.”

Hunt had been candid to jurors, Mr Edwards said. “He is someone who when he’s faced with a charge says ‘I’m guilty, I’ll hold my hands up’. Within reason, everything he’s said has been backed up.”

Not guilty

Jacob Hunt, of Augustus Avenue, Keynsham, smiled in the dock as the foreman of the jury delivered the not guilty verdict on Monday afternoon.

Judge Peter Crabtree granted him bail. He will be sentenced on January 8 for supplying cannabis.