Three men who broke into a prison and buried a haul of drugs, mobile phones and booze are now behind bars themselves.
Connor Owen, 21, Alexander Metcalfe, 23, and Dwayne Baites, 25, were spotted by a neighbour creeping across fields next to HMP Kirkham - where Metcalfe’s cousin was a serving prisoner.
When officers caught up with the men, in a car driving away from the prison, they noticed they had muddy boots and clothing and arrested the trio.
Police dogs were called in to search the surrounding area and discovered three large sports holdalls and a drawstring bag buried under grass in a wood store - where prisoner Michael Metcalfe was scheduled to work the following day. Inside the bags there was an iPhone, 12 other mobile phones, 16 SIM cards, 863 tablets of assorted class C drugs, bottles of alcohol, steroids and 8.2g of cannabis resin.
One of the bags had the slogan ‘I’m off to find some treasure’ emblazoned across it.
Rachel Woods, prosecuting, said: “The following day Michael Metcalfe, the serving prisoner, was expected to be working in the wood yard at the prison, which would have allowed him access to the items which had been left.
“The following day, he escaped from the prison.”
Owen, from Tyne and Wear, Alexander Metcalfe and Baites, both from Hartlepool, pleaded guilty to conveying banned articles into prison. Baites was jailed for 18 months. Owen and Metcalfe were given 16 months.
Judge Simon Newell, sentencing at Preston Crown Court, said: “A relative of one of the three of you was serving the end of the long sentence of imprisonment at HMP Kirkham.
“That is a prison well known to these courts – it has very limited security.You were seen in a rural location by chance, by someone who lives there.You were seen to go across fields to a builders yard.
“He was suspicious, the police were called and you were arrested.The inmate who was related to you was doing some work in the wood yard the following day.
“It seems apparent he would have collected them and would have distributed or used them within the prison environment for his own benefit.
“The circumstances, at night in a rural location, give the impression that this expedition was well planned.
“I take these to be very serious offences - a total of 29 phones and SIM cards in an institution where there are only just over 600 prisoners.
“That is a substantial intrusion.”