'Too risky' for drugs lord to be escorted from prison to visit seriously ill mum in hospital

A notorious Teesside drugs lord says he has been refused permission to visit his sick mum in hospital - claiming HMP Frankland bosses are concerned he is an escape risk.

Jon Moorby is serving a 29-year sentence, partly for his role in a global drugs ring, that saw chartered helicopters fly millions of pounds of drugs over the channel, before they were dropped off at rented holiday homes in Kent.

The 54-year-old's previous use of airbourn transport and his underworld connections has left prison bosses fearful that he is capable of escaping, he told Teesside Live. In fact, Moorby has previously made no secret of the fact that he wants to return to Thailand, where he has a partner and a daughter.

Richard and Susan Moorby
Richard and Susan Moorby -Credit:Esther Halligan

The notorious criminal is under high security in prison, with guards accompanying him whenever he leaves his cell. He spends his days in art classes and in the prison gym, and a hospital visit would have involved at least three armed guards accompanying him.

His murky past and the apparent escape risk he poses means he now can't go to visit his beloved devout Baptist Christian mum, Susan Moorby, 78, in the University Hospital of North Tees in Stockton. She was admitted there two weeks ago fighting problems in her kidneys, heart and lungs.

She hasn't been able to visit her son in prison for years, after becoming housebound, suffering from osteoporosis and arthritis, and relying on her morphine prescription. She has been cared for by her husband, Moorby's dad, Robert Moorby, 84, in their Ingleby Barwick apartment. The devoted parents have always sent money into prison for Moorby, which he says he spends on protein shakes.

Speaking exclusively to Teesside Live, the drugs lord said: "I love my mam. One day in this life or the next, I'll see her again soon."

A spokesperson for the Prison Service, would not give details on Moorby's specific request, but did say: “As the public would rightly expect, prisoners are not eligible for escorted absences unless they pass a robust risk assessment.”

'Mr Big'

Known as "Mr Big", Moorby fled to Thailand rather than stand trial in June 2014, and enjoyed life on-the-run in a luxury villa until the police caught up with him. A huge haul of cocaine had been found at Moorby's home in Ingleby Barwick, Stockton. He was sentenced to 15-years in prison, in his absence, for the possession of cocaine and amphetamines with intent to supply.

But by 2017, cops were tipped off that Moorby's son Brandon was visiting him in Ko Samui; and Moorby's associates were transferring large sums of money to him. Police waited at Samui airport, but Moorby had sent a pal to pick Brandon up.

Speaking from his prison cell, Moorby later said: "I got a phone call warning me about what had happened. I picked up a few things, including a Belgian passport and I fled. Lance organised a speedboat and I got to Ko Mudsom - it's in the middle of nowhere - but they came after me and I was surrounded by Interpol and Thai Police, who held machine guns to my head."

He admitted conspiring to supply Class A drugs and in May 2021, Moorby was jailed for 14 years. He was found to have been directing the Teesside drugs operation from Thailand.

Moorby worked alongside Merseyside drugs boss Lance Kennedy, who is serving 18-years-and-four-months. The Birkenhead gangster sourced vast quantities of cocaine and the two targeted Teesside - leaving the streets of Middlesbrough awash with the drug.

Across 2015 and 2016 Kennedy was linked to six flights containing a suspected 500kgs of cocaine. The wholesale value of the haul was £17.25m, but it was so pure that police believe it could have been worth up to £350m once adulterated and sold on.

John 'Winky' Watson, Craig Costello, Steven Beazley and Dave Wright sold the drugs locally. Watson, 44, Beazley, 42, and Wright, 47, were jailed for a total of 21-years-and-seven-months, in 2021, after evidence was gathered by a covert police operation.

Craig Costello, 41, fled the country to avoid standing trial. He reportedly worked on oil rigs in the middle east before he was caught. He was jailed for nine-years-seven-months, in 2022.

There appears to be no sign of the estimated £4.5m profit from the crime ring. A proceeds of crime investigation found that Moorby had just £349 held in a Yorkshire Bank account.

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