Man who found James Bulger’s body jailed over Dutch drug racket

THE man who discovered James Bulger’s body was behind bars today for his role in one of Merseyside’s biggest-ever drug rackets.

Terence Riley was just 13 when he came across the toddler on an isolated railway line in Bootle.

Riley was with his brother, then 14, and two friends when they squeezed through a gap in the fence to reach the two-year-old in 1993.

Their traumatic discovery was yesterday used in his defence for his role in a multi-million pound drug operation.

Riley, 29, was the last member of a 15-strong gang put before the courts after being extradited from Holland to face justice.

He was jailed for 12 years.

But Louise Santamera, defending, told the court: “He has seen things which no young person should have to see.

“Of course, finding James Bulger’s body on the railway line, without any counselling, was bound to have some effect on such a young person.”

She accepted Riley had already racked up a criminal record before discovering James’s body.

But she added: “I suppose it is a question no-one will ever be able to answer now, but one wonders if he had undergone counselling and got the help he needed after that incident whether he would find himself in the position he is today.”

Liverpool crown court heard Riley had a leading role in the drugs operation run by mastermind and gangland executioner David Hibbs-Turner.

Police said the £4m worth of drugs and packaging they seized was just the tip of the iceberg.

The “armed and very dangerous” gang are now serving more than 150 years behind bars.

Hibbs-Turner was jailed for life with a minimum of 37 years to serve for the conspiracy and ordering the point-blank shooting of father-of-three Michael “Mikey” Wright.

Rowena Goode, prosecuting, told the court Hibbs-Turner trusted Riley to run the Dutch side of the massive operation.

She said the plan was simple, but well-organised and had massive profits.

The gang bought a fleet of Vauxhall Combi vans which they adapted to create secret compartments. The incons- picuous vehicles were then filled with class A drugs brought into the country from Amsterdam after deals with South American cartels.

The drugs were cut, diluted and re-packaged in some of Liverpool’s plushest addresses, including Beetham Tower, Cornwallis Court and City Towers, while custodians were armed with lethal weapons to protect the high-value goods.

During the first year of the plot, Riley acted as tenant at one of the drug factory properties at Royal Quay.

He was seen loading bags full of drugs into cars.

When the property was raided on June 3, 2005, forensics revealed drugs worth £500,000 had been produced there.

Riley’s fingerprints were also found.

But by 2005, Riley had moved to Amsterdam to run the Dutch side of the operation and to escape a court hearing for dangerous driving from 2003.

He occupied a house in Amsterdam where he would collect money transfers from England, meet contacts and provide a safe-house for his fellow conspirators.

The court heard he worked closely with Hibbs-Turner and was in contact with him the day before he was arrested alongside the rest of his gang in February 16, 2007.

He and Riley were brought back by Dutch police on March 13.

He later admitted conspiracy to supply class A and B drugs and a bail offence.