Inside squalid flat where ‘county lines’ drug dealers were found


Shocking footage shows the inside of a squalid flat where teenagers were held captive and forced to sell crack cocaine and heroin as part of a ‘county lines’ drug network.

The clip, filmed on a police bodycam, shows the moment officers raided the freezing rundown property in Lincoln and discovered the children inside.

Police shout ‘it’s ok, it’s ok’ to the shocked youngsters, who were trafficked from Birmingham and forced to live in horrific conditions working for a drugs gang.

The chilling footage was released after Zakaria Mohammed, 21, of Aston, Birmingham, was jailed for 14 years for trafficking children and drug charges.

Although it is believed that as many as 10 children were involved, Mohammed was prosecuted for trafficking two boys who were found in a flat and a girl he bought a train ticket to Lincoln for.

He groomed the vulnerable children, who were then reported missing, and forced them to live in the squalid flats hundreds of miles away from their homes.

Supt Richard Agar of West Midlands Police, said: ‘The flat was squalid, it was unsanitary. 

‘It had no heating. There was no food. There was drug paraphernalia scattered everywhere.

‘The children were clearly disorientated, they were dishevelled in appearance.

‘They made no attempt to get away. There was nothing of that nature.

‘Clearly they were being forced to remain there, and they were being exploited all the time they were there.’ 

Police said the two boys and a girl, aged 14 and 15, were transported from Birmingham to Lincoln to work as ‘expendable workhorses in cuckooed drugs dens.’ 

It is the first time in UK legal history a drug-dealer has been been convicted in Britain for breaching the Modern Slavery Act by trafficking children.

Birmingham Crown Court was told Mohammed’s county lines narcotics network – which raked in £500 a day – was rumbled after the teenagers were reported missing.

The youngsters were found holed-up at the run down flat in Lincoln on January 25 this year.

Police found a large bloodstained knife wrapped in a plastic bag, a bundle of cash and two hunting-style knife. 

Surveillance identified Mohammed’s Seat Leon making regular trips from Birmingham, often accompanied by teenagers, to an address in Lincoln.

West Midlands Police intercepted him on February 6 coming off the M6 in Birmingham and seized his car for being uninsured.

A phone used to run the drugs line – known as ‘Castro’ and which had more than 100 customer contacts – was found following a search of the vehicle.

A pair of black school trousers, a white shirt and school tie belonging to a missing child from Birmingham was also discovered.

A Mountain Dew drink bottle and a Ribena carton were also recovered and forensic examination later returned a DNA match to two other missing 15-year-old boys.

Officers from Lincolnshire Police recorded video evidence of children passing drugs to punters and swooped on another flat on February 12.

Three further 15-year-old boys, all reported as missing from Birmingham, were found as well as 25 wraps of heroin and crack cocaine, plus cash and two ‘zombie’ knives.

And CCTV from Birmingham New Street station showed him buying train tickets for two children to travel to Lincoln on March 26.

Mohammed, was arrested when his Passat was stopped later that day heading into Lincoln.

He refused to comment during police interview but later admitted four counts of possessing drugs with intent to supply and five counts of human trafficking. 

Passing sentence today, judge Nicholas Webb, said: ‘The fact is the children were being taken away for days or weeks, exposed to potential danger in a squalid environment.’

Investigating Officer, Detective Constable Max Gebhard, of West Midlands Police, said after the case: ‘Mohammed claimed to be playing the role of a ‘trusted and informed lieutenant’ and that there were drug bosses further up the chain – but I believe he was very much in charge.

‘He was a very busy man, living the life of a travelling salesman, sleeping in service stations and out on the road for many hours each day taking drugs and phones to children in the cuckooed addresses in Lincoln whilst taking away the money that had been made.

‘The ‘Castro’ drugs line number was changed four times in a bid to avoid detection by the police.

‘Each time a mass text message would be sent out to its scores of users alerting them to the new number on which to place orders – and when those orders came in Mohammed would contact the children to fulfill the deals.

‘This is a hugely significant conviction for West Midlands Police and law enforcement as a whole across the UK.

‘It shows that we can go after County Lines offenders not just for drug supply but also under trafficking legislation due to them exploiting children.

‘And that means stiffer custodial sentences for offenders.’

Detective Inspector Tom Hadley said there was no evidence the children Mohammed exploited ever saw any of the drugs money.

He added: ‘Children are often groomed to deal drugs with false promises of money and the allure of leading an exciting lifestyle.

‘In reality, we found three children inside a one-bed flat alongside two Class A drug users surrounded by used syringes.

‘The place was filthy, cold and there was no food in the kitchen; the children looked drawn, tired and hungry.

‘They were not wearing new trainers or designer clothes, they didn’t have new phones or gadgets.

‘They were not making money – they were having their childhood stolen from them by Mohammed who considered them expendable ‘workhorses’.

‘That’s the reality for children that are lured into this world through false promises.

‘Mohammed has been convicted of trafficking three vulnerable children but we suspect there were many more.

‘On this occasion we treated them as victims, not drug dealers, because they were being groomed and exploited.

‘They have been referred via the Human Trafficking National Referral Mechanism where they and their families can receive wraparound support from child services and hopefully be steered towards brighter futures.’      


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