The story behind one of Norwich’s most notorious flats
- Credit: Archant
It was once one of Norwich's most notorious flats.
But today, after multiple police raids, an eviction and the jailing of two county line drug dealers, people living near the Watson Grove property are finally at peace.
On Friday, a father and son from Essex were sentenced at Norwich Crown Court for dealing heroin and crack cocaine from the premises.
The pair - Steven Ward, 36, and his son, Danny Button, 18, - "cuckooed" the property from vulnerable council tenant James Meaney.
All three men were arrested on October 12 last year when police raided the flat and found 117 wraps of heroin and 104 wraps of crack cocaine inside.
Stephen Spence, who prosecuted in the case, said the two men provided Meaney, 46, with drugs so they could deal from his property.
Meaney pleaded guilty to allowing his flat to be used for the supply of drugs, and in May received a 24-week prison sentence, suspended for 18 months.
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Police raided the flat a further three times after the October warrant, leading to his eviction in February.
Now, Ward, who has 18 convictions for 30 offences, has been jailed for 38 months, while his son received a 28-month prison sentence.
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People living next to the problem flat, which is in the Heigham Grove area of Norwich, spoke of their relief now that it was empty.
One 65-year-old resident said: "They put a drug user in the same block as a pensioner.
"I couldn't sleep. There would be people on the stairwell and they would be injecting themselves outside. I was too scared to go out of my door at night.
"But I feel safer now. It's peaceful."
Ward and Button
Judge Stephen Holt said on Friday that there were "many victims" of Ward and Button's drug dealing operation.
He said: "This is a classic case of cuckooing. You were both London-based and came to Norwich and pressured Mr Meaney by offering him drugs."
Cuckooing is when drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person to use it as a base for dealing.
When police raided the flat in October they discovered 6.9g of heroin, worth up to £1,200, and 12g of crack cocaine, valued at £1,040.
Button, of no fixed abode, was also found with £400 to £500 in cash.
Text messages sent from Button's phone showed signs of drug dealing, while Ward had messaged his partner to say he was in Norfolk and that "money was being earned".
During their sentencing, Ward's barrister Sophie Sharpe had argued that her client was acting under pressure.
She said Ward's guilty plea was on the basis that his son had been threatened and that is why he travelled to Norfolk.
Ward was given the opportunity in court to give evidence about the threats, but chose not to.
Mr Spence said: "There is nothing that suggests there was such a direct threat against Mr Button that his father had to come up to engage in drug dealing with him.
"The suggestion that whatever debt would be satisfied by that period of drug dealing beggars belief."
Judge Holt did not accept the basis of plea.
Ward, of Clacton, Essex, cried in the dock as evidence was read out against him.
He admitted two counts of possessing heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply at an earlier hearing.
The court heard how he had four other young children and was "truly remorseful".
Button, who has previous convictions for dishonesty and violence, admitted possessing heroin with intent to supply.
Andrew Horsell, for Button, said the defendant was 17 at the time of the offence and was "acting below his years."
Speaking to this newspaper in December last year, Meaney apologised to his neighbours for the repeated raids on his flat.
Originally from London, he came to Norwich more than three years ago and was sleeping rough.
After a year on the streets he was given hostel accommodation, before moving to his flat in August 2018.
He claimed his problems stemmed from allowing acquaintances - who would otherwise be sleeping rough - to stay at his property.
He said: "It's a simple fact that we have been trying to be nice. We have given people food or let them stay round, because we know what it is like to be on the streets."
Meaney and his partner said they wanted an opportunity to prove themselves and make amends with their neighbours.
But on January 30 this year, his property was raided for a fourth time, with police seizing a large quantity of suspected Class A drugs.
He was evicted in February after police were granted a three-month closure order.
Meaney said at the time of his eviction: "I am living on the streets now, I don't have a choice."
On April 26 he was caught with 0.2g of cocaine and 0.1g of heroin, resulting in him appearing at Norwich Crown Court on May 10.
He admitted being in possession of drugs and was fined £50 for each offence.