Drugs gang brought down by photo of ham sandwich and can of Stella

Well this is a new one...

Daisy Jackson Daisy Jackson - 13th July 2023

A drugs gang has been brought down, with two of its members jailed – and it was all thanks to a ham sandwich.

The two men were caught by police after sharing photos of their lunch, plus a can of Stella Artois, on what was at the time an encrypted, secure instant messaging service.

But the secret mobile phone network EncroChat, used exclusively by criminals, collapsed in 2020 when an international law enforcement team cracked the company’s encryption.

Once able to access messages, Lancashire Police were able to prove that Richard Wylie and Richard Whiteside were the owners of Encrochat handles Somesnail and Peppershirt.

They were trapped after sharing pictures of a ham sandwich and a can of lager, with the backgrounds being matched to Whiteside’s address in Blackpool.


The investigation by the Serious and Organised Crime Team has now led to the pair’s arrest.

Richard Wylie (9/9/86), formerly of The Stables, Thornton Cleveleys was jailed for six years after pleading guilty to Conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A cocaine, Conspiracy to supply a controlled drug of Class A cocaine, Conspiracy to transfer and conceal criminal property and being concerned in supplying a controlled drug of Class A to others.


Richard Whiteside (2/2/68), formerly of Mickledon Road, Blackpool was jailed for four years after admitting Conspiracy to transfer and conceal criminal property and possessing criminal property.

Officers at Lancashire Police still want to speak to two other men – Daniel Hindley (5/6/83) and Jamie Finney (8/5/86) – as part of the same investigation, who are both believed to be abroad.

Detective Chief Insp James Edmonds said: “Like many other users of EncroChat, the criminals operating in Lancashire will have mistakenly thought that they could traffic drugs with impunity, under the radar of the police – our successes as part of Op Venetic show how wrong they are.


“We continue to work both with the NCA and other forces across the region and the UK to take the fight to criminals and ensure there are no safe spaces in Lancashire for serious and organised criminals, including those who seek to profit from a class A drugs trade which fuels violence and exploitation in our communities.

“This sort of activity is just one aspect of our continued fight to tackle serious and organised crime. I hope this sends a clear message to the public of our determination to rid communities of this sort of criminalisation and to make our streets safer.”

Featured image: Lancashire Police