A former volunteer lifeboat crewman got hooked on cocaine and ended up dealing drugs after he became convinced he was dying from cancer.
Pensioner Roger Bishop ran up a huge debt to his suppliers who then coerced him into peddling drugs near his home in Poulton, a court was told.
But police, who had been secretly watching the 66-year-old drive to meetings at car parks for two months, stopped him as he returned home from a drug run to Liverpool. They found half a kilo of heroin, which would have been worth nearly £200,000, in his car along with cutting agents.
A judge at Preston Crown Court said Bishop’s fall from grace was a “very sad and tragic case” as he jailed him for seven years.
Preston Crown Court heard that if the powder found in his car had been mixed with the paracetamol and caffeine also seized, it could have made £175,000 worth of street deals.
The pensioner – who is known by others in the lifeboat fraternity as “Roy” Roger and had lived an otherwise “exemplary” life – admitted one charge of being concerned in the supply of cocaine and another of possessing heroin with intent to supply.
The court heard Bishop’s brother-in-law had died of cancer and Bishop wrongly believed he himself was terminally ill.
He became the subject of a police operation between June 28 and August 31 last year.
Hanifa Patel, prosecuting, said on eight occasions police saw the defendant driving his Land Rover to various locations, briefly meet others and some kind of exchange take place.
On one of those dates, following an exchange, a man was seen to snort some white powder from a bag.
Bishop was kept under observation and on August 31 was seen driving on the M55.
He was stopped and asked if there was anything in his vehicle that police needed to know about.
The defendant said there was something under the passenger seat, adding: “I pick up the bag, leave it in an unlocked car and then it gets picked up”.
About half a kilo of heroin was found in a bag in the car. Paracetamol and caffeine were also discovered.
In a safe at his home officers found £680 of cocaine, electronic scales and some plastic bags.
During police interview, Bishop, of Chester Avenue, Poulton, admitted making regular trips to Liverpool to collect packages on behalf of others he refused to name.
The packages would then be brought back to the Blackpool area.
Julie Taylor, defending, said the retired plumber and gas fitter had also been in the merchant navy. She said a “very bizarre and unusual” set of circumstances had arisen.
Early last year the defendant had lost his brother-in-law to cancer and he had concerns about his own health.
She added: “He had lost a lot of weight and convinced himself he was dying, that he had cancer or some sort of illness to cause his dramatic weight loss.
“Rather unusually, he began to take cocaine occasionally on a social basis. It made him feel better. He thought he was dying, in any event.
“He became hooked and very quickly ran up a substantial debt with drug dealers which resulted in him himself dealing cocaine on eight occasions. He passed it on to people he already knew were drug users themselves.
“His family are in a bit of a state of disbelief. They are suffering through his actions, something he obviously regrets bitterly.
“He is throughly ashamed. He can’t believe he has found himself in this position”.
Miss Taylor said Bishop had not dealt in heroin. He had been told £3,000 would be knocked off his debt if he did the Liverpool drugs run.
Although he knew he was picking up drugs, he didn’t know what they were or the weight, she said.
Judge Michael Byrne said in passing sentence: “This is a very sad and tragic case. The defendant had led a previous exemplary life.
“The last thing suppliers want is for their own users to pay off their debts, because they would not have any control over them.
“So long as this defendant, like so many others, remained in debt to his own suppliers they had a hold over him to do their bidding.
“The reason why the defendant behaved in this way was to try and work off his own debt, I dare say by contemplation of recriminations if he didn’t conform to their requests”.