Focus on the Red House Estate

Like many housing estates across the North East High Etherley’s Red House Estate has been plagued in recent years by an ever-increasing blight of anti-social behaviour. Whether it be throwing eggs or stones at the windows of people’s flats and houses, name calling, threats or a whole load of other similar, related misdemeanours, the estate has had them all: just like so many other localities across the rest of the South West Durham Coalfield in which it happens to be situated. In winter the incessant stoning of cars and buses by the bored, largely degeneratively inbred, youth who take delight in such mindless activity gives way to the ceaseless snowballing of windows. An activity intended to frighten and brow beat the faint of heart onto ever lower levels of submissiveness. As usual in an environment previously lorded over by such high-flying gangland criminals as Vincent Landa, whose ability to put the correct amount of notes in the right number of Policemen’s top pockets has allegedly been at the heart of their ability to evade arrest and detainment at Her Majesty’s Pleasure, the Police seem less than interested in tackling what is to all intents an ever worsening social and public disorder problem.

More recently however an even greater criminal and social menace has begun to manifest itself in and around the Red House Estate. That menace being none other than the County Durham and Teeside Council Estate low life drug of choice, heroin. Strange as it may seem, Teesdale District Council, whose Housing Section administers the properties on the estate, may know more than they are actually telling about how it was that in the late summer and early autumn of 2002 the Red House estate became infested with an albeit temporary blight of heroin related crime. Following the allocation of a two bedroom flat on the estate to an alleged step son of one of the Council joiners, large numbers of individuals directly involved in the taking and distribution of this illicit substance began congregating in and around the property which he himself had recently been allocated: in apparent contravention of the newly amended Housing Act 2002. In the weeks that followed a burglary on the estate eventually forced the Police to take action after one angry resident in particular began writing a torrent of angry letters to Bishop Auckland based Police Inspector (15) Macmillan.

In spite of the arrest of the burglars however, the heroin dealing from the flats proceeded to continue. And, in the weeks immediately leading up to the New Year celebrations the then girlfriend of one of the main criminals involved paid call on the letter writer, a martial arts expert, with a view to actually threatening him. During the course of the initial part of their conversation, before she was forced to leave, she inferred that one of his letters had been shown to her by P.C. Brendan Coll of Barnard Castle Police Station, the then Beat Officer for the village of Cockfield, where one of those alleged to be one of the main dealers, one Ryan “Tosser” Armstrong, is on occasion known to reside. When this incident was reported to officers at Bishop Auckland Police Office rigorous verbal denials were issued by Acting Chief Inspector David Allaway, but no written statement contradicting the local resident in question’s version of events. Similarly, no arrest or formal Police interrogation of the criminal who had made the claim was ever made. Surely a very unusual affair under the circumstances. After all, if local criminal low life are actively making statements claiming that they have been shown confidential items of correspondence addressed to Police and Council officials regarding criminal activity on local estates by Police officers with whom they claim to be on first name terms, shouldn’t the Police take an active interest in all such claims, whether spurious or otherwise?

As regards the reasons why a serving Police officer would go so far as to show controversial documents such as those previously described to a criminal, if he actually did do so, we can only speculate. One reason that has been put forward is that Ryan Armstrong is connected with a network of Police criminal informants collectively referred to as “Kinmont’s Bairns” by those who are actively hostile to them, owing to their alleged association with former Durham County Councillor John Armstrong. Armstrong, whose nickname of “Kinmont Willy” is alleged to have been derived from his apparent descent from the sixteenth century Border Reiver of the same name, is similarly alleged to have escaped a custodial prison sentence some years ago in connection with certain corrupt business practises connected with his involvement with insurance selling.

Although no actual physical proof one way or the other has ever been forthcoming, the usual rumour mongering gossip merchants from about the locality claim that Armstrong’s involvements with a number of senior Police Officers through his various contacts on the Council at Parish, District and County level, associations that he himself has cultivated for a period of some fifty years, were what kept him out of prison. Indeed, one particularly vitriolic critic of “Kinmont Willy’s” period on the Council claims that his involvements with, amongst others, local Labour District Councillor for Lynesack Donald Metcalfe, have even brought him into contact with the unfortunate Lord Mackenzie of Framwellgate, himself the subject of a recent media food frenzy in connection with his alleged association with a French Algerian call girl.

Amongst Councillor Armstrong’s other alleged associates appears to have been one time Leader of Durham County Council Andrew Cunningham, the father of Cabinet “enforcer” Jack Cunningham M.P., who had himself been imprisoned for corruption in 1971 in the aftermath of the notorious Poulson Corruption Scandal. Another of those linked to “The Poulson Affair” as it came to be known was the then Conservative Home Secretary Reginald Maudling, himself originally responsible for the introduction of the 1971 “Misuse of Drugs Act”, a piece of legislation believed by its critics to have been instrumental in the rise and rise of organized crime; owing to the fact that it would thenceforth place the domestic market for drugs such as cocaine and heroin, which had previously been available openly, into the hands of gangland criminals such as the Krays and the Richardsons.

In view of these facts it is perhaps of interest that amongst the photographs contained in Charlie Richardson’s own landmark autobiography “My Manor” is a picture of one of his then claimed business associates in the company of the late Harold Macmillan, the then member of Parliament for Stockton-on-Tees and himself a long-term political associate of Maudling’s. Elsewhere in the same book Richardson explains the reasons for his own personal involvements with the upper crust dinner party set in which Macmillan and those of his class were accustomed to mix: “Uppers and downers, coke and dope were the privilege of the privileged, bored at tea parties, Wimbledon,Cowes, Henly and Ascot. The rich have all the fun. Smoking a joint with my accent was breaking exciting new ground in class mobility. I had more hyperactivity than a kid reared in the lead fumes of the M1. I needed a joint to calm me down……The other pleasure the snot-arses of British Society kept to themselves was boating…..”

Coincidentally, or not, as the case may be, the big league Teeside drugs smuggler Brian Charrington, himself the subject of the Customs and Excise investigation which was to lead to the collapse, in 1994, of Operation Singer at the cost of £40m to the U.K. tax payer, thanks to the apparent meddling of the then Tory M.P. for Stockton South, Tim Devlin, has been noted for his then possession of a state of the art specialist diving vessel. What, if any, is the link between these high level political and criminal intrigues and the present activities of small-scale drug dealers in and around High Etherley’s Red House Estate? The answers are out there, truly out there……

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