A JURY has found the former owner of Northwich Victoria guilty of conspiring to supply class A drugs. 

James Rushe, 54, of Runcorn Road, Moore, was standing trial accused of conspiracy to supply cocaine, a Class A drug.

He was in the dock alongside co-defendants Mark Fishwick, of Greencroft, in Preston, and Andrew Fetherston, 47, of Barnard Road, in Manchester.

All three men denied the charge.

But Fishwick and Rushe were found guilty by the jury this afternoon, Thursday, after three hours of deliberation.

Fetherston was found not guilty. 

Rushe and Fishwick will be sentenced on May 6 with the judge telling the pair they would face a custodial sentence. 

Recorder Simon Medland QC said: "You have been convicted by the jury of a mightily serious offence and one which means I will send you both to prison for a long time.

"As an act of mercy I am extending bail to allow you to put your family and business affairs in order."

Earlier in the day, in his summing up Recorder Medland reminded the jury that the case against the three men was part of a wider investigation by the North West Organised Crime Unit (Titan) into the large scale supply of cocaine and other controlled drugs in the region and beyond.

This centred on an organised crime gang run by Preston man Paul Berry, 47, of Abbey Walk, who admitted his part in the conspiracy at a previous hearing.

Recorder Medland said: "The prosecution's case is that for a period of time while all this was going on, three middle aged men took part in it.

"They don't say these defendants are druggies or druggie-type people.

"They're not interested in drugs themselves but attracted by the substantial amounts of money available by being in this trade.

"The defendants have each told you that they are middle aged men of good character who are nothing to do with the drugs trade whatsoever.

"Does all the evidence add up to them actually being involved, in essence being co-conspirators?

"Or might it be that they're brought into this by a terrible co-incidence, that in fact they're nothing to do with drugs, just businessmen trying to make a few quid who, because they've been involved to some extent, for example meeting at a pub in February with Paul Berry, next they've been brought into this investigation?"

He summarised the evidence heard in the trial, which started on Monday, April 4 and directed the jury to reach a unanimous verdict, which they did.

Rushe and Fishwick have been granted bail until they are sentenced on the condition that they each reside at their home address, that they will be electronically tagged, that they abide by a 9am to 6am curfew, that they surrender their passports and do not apply for any documents that may enable them to leave the UK and that they report to their nearest police station between noon and 1pm on Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.