By Sara Nichol
A mixed martial arts world champion has been jailed after being found with more than 2,000 ecstasy tablets stashed in his car.
Cage fighter Darren Towler, who lifted a UCMMA title in 2011, fell from grace when he was caught transporting the class A drug following a meeting with a contact in a Newcastle pub car park.
The 34-year-old, from Dunelm Walk, in Leadgate, Consett, County Durham, was also found to be possession of cocaine and £2,300 cash when his Citroen Berlingo vehicle was pulled over after a police operation saw officers secretly watching him meet another man, Liam Patterson, outside the Toby Carvery pub, in Kingston Park.
Now, Towler has been jailed for three years and three months after pleading guilty to conspiracy to supply MDMA, possessing cocaine with intent to supply and possessing criminal property.
Patterson, 28, of Nelson Road, Stakeford, Northumberland, was locked-up for three years after admitting conspiracy to supply MDMA and was given a further 15 months for a separate fraud offence.
Jailing Towler, Judge Tim Gittins said: “You became a mixed martial arts world heavyweight champion and displayed the strength you must have built up and the sacrifice that becoming a world champion in any sport involves.
“However, you didn’t have the strength to wrestle with your own conscience.
“You were a small but important part of a conveyor belt in the supply of class A drugs.”
Richard Herman, prosecuting, said the offences happened on August 11 2014 when Towler was spotted in the Toby Carvery pub car park.
He said: “An officer observed a Citroen Berlingo parked next to a Ford Transit van in the car park of a public house.
“The Citroen had two occupants, the passenger being Darren Towler.
“Liam Patterson was observed in the public house with his daughter. Patterson was overheard on a phone call saying: “Ok, I will be out in a minute”.
“The call was terminated and he left the pub and went out across the car park towards the Citroen.”
The court heard Towler retrieved a carrier bag from the transit van and exchanged a few words with his co-accused before he left the scene and Patterson returned to the pub.
Mr Herman added: “At 5.20pm later that day, the Citroen was stopped by police. Towler was searched and he produced from the pocket of his jacket £2,300 in cash in notes.
“The van was searched and it was found to contain a carrier bag with a significant quantity of drugs – there were 2,000 MDMA tablets, or ecstasy tablets, in two separate bags. There was also two packages of cocaine, just short of 12g.”
Jane Waugh, mitigating for Towler, who has 13 convictions for 28 offences, said he’d acted as a courier after getting into debt through his drug addiction, which he’d started through the contacts he’d met through cage fighting.
She said: “He got into this because he was a mixed martial arts champion and got mixed up with the wrong people as part of that crowd.
“He began taking cocaine. When he was not taking part in a fight, he was taking cocaine and getting himself into debt.
“He couldn’t keep up with the amount of cocaine he was taking and he was persuaded to act as a courier on this occasion, to take drugs on behalf of someone else and has now found himself before the courts.”
Patterson was jailed for four years and three months after he also admitted a separate fraud offence for his part in fleecing two old women out of more than £5,000.
Caroline Goodwin, for Patterson, said: “He was using alcohol and drugs and they spiralled out of control and he began owing money.
“He’s rid himself now of drugs and, in his words, ‘emotional equilibrium has been installed’ and he’s found employment.”