POLICE this morning swooped on suspected members of the Eldene drugs line.

Around two dozen officers raided three homes in Covingham, Eldene and Liden at around 9.40am – it followed raids on another three homes in east Swindon on Wednesday.

At Bullfinch Close armed police used specialist tools to drill through then batter down the PVC door of an end-of-terrace home.

This article is only available to our subscribers. You are seeing it today for free. Subscribe today to enjoy unlimited advert-light access and exclusive content. Your subscription will help fund the vital, trusted coverage that our communities need.

Speaking outside one raided property, Sgt James Rodrigues, the Wiltshire Police officer in charge of the operation, said: “Our activity today is primarily aimed at disrupting those lines, providing reassurance to our community and hopefully in taking this sort of action it shows the community we are listening.”

Two men aged 20 and 22 and a 22-year-old woman were arrested in Eldene on suspicion of possession with intent to supply class B drugs. An 18-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of being concerned in the supply of class A drugs. Cocaine, cannabis, £500 cash and “scrambler” motorcycles were among the items seized on Thursday morning.

READ MORE: The huge cannabis stash seized by police on raids

On Wednesday, two boys – aged 16 and 17 – were arrested on suspicion of supplying drugs after cash, phones and what police suspect to be drugs were uncovered during raids.

Swindon Advertiser:

Drug squad officers search coats in Covingham this morning Pictures: ADVER PHOTOGRAPHER

Swindon Advertiser:

Police batter down the door of a house in Covingham Picture: ADVER

Op Theseus

The warrants were part of Op Theseus, Wiltshire Police’s efforts to tackle drug dealing in east Swindon and – in particular – close down a County Lines-style drug network said to be run out of Eldene.

Listen to Sgt Rodrigues talk to the Adver about the raids:

Sgt Rodrigues is the neighbourhood sergeant for east Swindon and oversees Op Theseus. He told the Adver: “Drugs have a huge impact on communities. Obviously, not only through their use but the additional harm that comes with them. Through allowing local class A and class B drug lines to run rife within local communities, what happens is you have associated violence and anti-social behaviour that goes along with it.

“Members of the public become scared of these groups and subsequently don’t want to report things to the police.

“By taking action like this where we are going in and doing warrants and actively tackling this group hopefully it shows people we are here, if you tell us these things we will act upon it.

“[There is] absolutely no place for drugs lines of any kind in our community whatsoever and we will take action against them.”

Swindon Advertiser:

Sgt Rodrigues talks to ITV following the raid Picture: ADVER PHOTOGRAPHER

Asked whether the pandemic and recent lockdowns were having an impact on drug dealing in Swindon, the officer said it had probably “allowed things to quieten down” – although it was still happening.

The terrifying gang leaders

In the past 12 months, a number of people linked to the Eldene drugs line have been dealt with by the courts.

The Eldene drugs line is one of the home-grown gangs that the police claim are imitating the methods used by London’s County Lines groups by sending bulk advertising texts to users, offering deals and often using children to run the drugs.

The courts have heard that many of the young runners jailed or given suspended sentences for handling heroin and crack were living in fear of the Eldene gang’s leaders – who are still to be brought to justice.

Swindon Advertiser:

Aaron Betterton Picture: WILTSHIRE POLICE

Aaron Betterton, 20, was visibly distressed when he was arrested by police in a raid in 2019 and his first thought was for his mum, who lived around the corner. Police found £36,000-worth of drugs in the Eldene terrace, with evidence of drugs being cut and bagged in a child’s bedroom.

His lawyer, Rob Ross, told Swindon Crown Court last year: “When he was arrested in November in that house there wasn’t an arrogant young man – an arrogant young dealer – who’s been caught and is angry about that. There’s actually a very scared young man who didn’t know what might happen as a result of that raid and those drugs being lost.”

Louis Roberts, 19, who sold drugs to an undercover police officer, fled to Thailand in order to make a clean break from former associates in east Swindon.

“There are a couple of people further up the chain who all the young people are fearful of,” Rob Ross said.