A FORMER Northwich football club owner is on trial for conspiracy to supply Class A drugs.

James Rushe, 54, previously owner of Northwich Victoria, appeared at Liverpool Crown Court today, Monday, where he denied the charge.

Rushe, of Runcorn Road, in Runcorn, appeared alongside co-defendants Mark Fishwick, 46, of Greencroft, in Preston, and Andrew Fetherstone, 47, of Barnard Road, in Manchester, who have also entered not guilty pleas.

The court heard from prosecutor David Potter who outlined the case against the trio to the jury in the opening statements of the trial, which is expected to last for seven days.

He argued that between February 1 and May 20, 2015, Rushe, Fishwick and Fetherstone conspired together and with others to supply cocaine, a Class A drug.

He said the case involves an investigation by the police’s North West Organised Crime Unit (Titan) into the large-scale supply of cocaine and other controlled drugs throughout the north west and the rest of the UK.

The court heard this centred on an organised criminal group based in and around Merseyside run by a Preston man called Paul Berry, 47, of Abbey Walk, who pleaded guilty to his part in the conspiracy at an earlier hearing.

Mr Potter said: “On Friday, February 27, 2015, there was a meeting which lasted for about half an hour between Paul Berry, Mark Fishwick and James Rushe at a pub outside Warrington called the Mascrat Manor.

“The prosecution say the purpose of that meeting was to discuss the supply of cocaine from Berry to Mr Fishwick and Mr Rushe.

“Parts of their conversation were overheard by surveillance officers.”

On Wednesday, March 18, 2015, Mr Potter said Berry’s couriers drove to a karting track in the Gorton area of Manchester called Karting 2000, formerly owned by Rushe but at the time run by his sons and co-defendant Fetherstone.

The jury heard that Fetherstone was passed a package by the couriers, which he placed up and inside the fleece jacket he was wearing.

“The prosecution’s case is that this was a supply of cocaine organised by Paul Berry in which Andrew Fetherstone acted as the trusted recipient of the drugs at business premises associated to James Rushe,” said Mr Potter.

On April 21, 2015 police stopped a vehicle on the M6, which contained quarter of a kilo of 83 per cent pure cocaine, which is described as ‘import strength’.

The prosecution claim this was an attempt to courier the drug to Fishwick, in Preston.

Rushe was arrested on August 20, 2015.

In interviews he denied any involvement with the supply of controlled drugs.

Mr Potter said Rushe explained he knew Fishwick because his son had played for Northwich Victoria and Fishwick also MOT’d Rushe’s vehicles at his centre in Preston.

In police interview Rushe said the meeting with Berry had been arranged by Fishwick because Berry was looking to open a van hire business in Cheshire and he had been led to believe Berry could do something for the football club, like sponsorship.

He denied drugs had been discussed at the meeting and said he had no knowledge of the couriers’ visit to Karting 2000 on March 18.

The trial continues.