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Police swoop down on drug dealer

By North Devon Journal  |  Posted: November 22, 2012

THIS was the moment North Devon drug dealer "Big Jim" Fielder discovered he was not beyond the law.

The photograph, taken by a covert police surveillance team, shows detectives swooping on a £10,000 cocaine deal at a farm near Barnstaple.

As officers arrive (left) a shirtless James Fielder emerges from a caravan (right) and throws a bag of cocaine into bushes.

It was the culmination of a stakeout called Operation Sentinel carried out by Devon and Cornwall police's Serious and Organised Crime Team.

This week 63-year-old Fielder was beginning an 11-year jail term after admitting conspiracy to supply cocaine.

Police say Fielder, known locally as "Big Jim", was the main Class A drug supplier in North Devon and dealt in wholesale quantities of the drugs.

Detective Sergeant Jonathan Phillips, from the Serious and Organised Crime Team, said: "James Fielder thought he was beyond the law.

"His drug dealing played a significant role in supplying North Devon with Class A drugs."

James Fielder became the target of a police investigation in 2009.

Although he had some minor convictions for dealing cannabis in the 1980s he had kept out of court since then.

But police were tipped off that he was a major source of cocaine locally.

And the more they looked at his lifestyle the more suspicious they became.

Fielder described himself as an odd job man and property developer – but declared no income to the tax man.

Detective Constable Shaun Friend said: "There is no doubt he was living well above his means.

"He lived in a large five-bedroom house in Braunton. He also owned Steps Fort Farm and several vehicles. He had no legitimate income, purporting to be a businessman. However this was not reflected in HMRC returns."

The Serious and Organised Crime Team began their surveillance operation in early 2010.

Eventually they got their breakthrough on Tuesday, June 22.

Detectives hidden in undergrowth watched as courier Glen Hilsden, who had driven in a van from Staines-upon-Thames, Surrey, met Fielder at Steps Fort Farm near Landkey.

The pair went into a caravan together.

After a short time Hilsden emerged and started putting something into the lining of the van boot.

Police swept on to the farm and Fielder was filmed leaving the caravan and throwing a white package into the bushes.

It was a plastic bag containing 233 grams of cocaine – which tests later showed was 21 per cent pure.

Detectives believe before it reached North Devon users it would be mixed with other substances – diluting the quality but increasing Fielder's profit.

Fielder had paid £10,000 in cash for the drugs. The money was recovered from the lining of Hilsden's van.

More cocaine was found hidden in a straw-covered rabbit hole at his farm.

That package – referred to in court as the Alice in Wonderland package – was of a different purity and from a different consignment.

Police say Hilsden had made 15 deliveries to Fielder over several months. They suspect some involved larger quantities of the drug.

Sergeant Phillips said: "The resources needed to undertake an investigation of this scale are significant however in this case totally justified.

"Organised crime will not be tolerated in Devon and Cornwall and the Serious and Organised Crime Team working with local officers will take steps to arrest, charge and convict those involved."

After Fielder was arrested and bailed he tried to flee Britain on an 80-foot luxury yacht called the Misty Moonbeam.

He was stopped by police at Penzance as the vessel was being fuelled with enough diesel to get him to the Canaries.

He was given bail again but fled once more – this time successfully.

It emerged he had handed an expired passport to police and travelled to Thailand on his current one.

After two years abroad he returned earlier this year and was arrested as he stepped onto the tarmac at Heathrow.

Fielder, of Corfe Green House, Braunton, admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine and was jailed for 11 years by Judge Francis Gilbert QC.

The courier, Glen Hilsden, 39, from Staines-upon-Thames, was jailed for seven years after being convicted of the same charge in June.

The judge ordered an investigation be conducted under the Proceeds of Crime Act to seize any assets Fielder may still have in this country.

Defence barrister Nicolas Gerasimides said Fielder had left the country to sort out family problems with his young grandson in Thailand.

He said he deserved credit for returning and admitting his part in the conspiracy.

He said the police surveillance evidence proved 15 contacts with the courier but claimed these had not all involved deliveries.

He said Hilsden was an old friend and the two men shared an interest in motocross, which explained some of his visits to Devon.

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