ONE stood expressionless resigned to his fate, the other head bowed in apprehension as her punishment was read out to gasps in the public gallery.
Drug baron Richard Brookhouse and wife Diane Brookhouse were jailed for 34 years in a day of reckoning at Warrington Crown Court last week, for running a £100million international plot that saw one of the largest police seizures of cocaine the country has ever seen.
Eighteen members of the ‘sophisticated’ smuggling operation were jailed for 217 years, after 78kg of cocaine, 1kg of heroin and a small amount of MCat were recovered by a specialist police force brought in to crack it.
Mr Brookhouse, aged 45, was the ‘controlling mind’ of the ring, jailed for 20 years.
Mum -of-two Mrs Brookhouse, aged 42, of Coronation Avenue, was his partner in marriage and crime, jailed for 14 years for playing a ‘significant and necessary role’.
She helped him set up meetings with key contacts in the underworlds of Manchester and Liverpool, with the huge weights of drugs smuggled in from France on seven fishing trips.
Addressing Mr Brookhouse, who pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin and Mcat, Judge Nicholas Woodward said: “You have admitted being the organiser and controlling mind behind this conspiracy.
“You had substantial links and influence on others in the chain.
“This was the most serious commercial sale of class A drugs.
“Your relationship with your children has been further damaged by what happened and will become much difficult in the future.
“I have no idea how they will come to terms with what you have done and the effect it has had on them.
“I suspect this will be a further burden for you to bear in a prison.
“All of this is entirely your responsibility.”
“You carried out your role while a serving prisoner and you were wholly unperturbed by your experience.
Mrs Brookhouse had denied any involvement or knowledge of the operation.
She was found guilty of conspiracy to supply cocaine, heroin and MCat by a jury in December last year.
Judge Woodward said: “I reject any suggestion you were an unwilling participant or in any way coerced.
“You would do whatever Richard Brookhouse would ask you to do, and which he was unable to do himself.
“You knew exactly the type of man he was.
“You also knew he was wholly unreformed, nonetheless you deliberately chose to stay with him and help him in committing these very serious crimes.
“The major factor I must consider is the effect this will have on your children.
“You have effectively been their sole carer all their lives.
“I accept you are very close.
“While I feel real compassion for the situation of the children, my public duty means I can only make a limited adjustment for their predicament which will not alter the bleak fact both their parents will remain in prison for many years.
“Ultimately that responsibility must be borne by you and Mr Brookhouse.”
It is estimated that between May 2012 to April 2013, the conspiracy imported class A drugs worth £100million into the north west, passed on to major dealers to flood the streets.
The conspiracy was organised while Mr Brookhouse was on day release from serving a 22 year prison sentence, imposed in 2003, for running a previous plot importing 60kg of cocaine.
Other members of the gang were involved as transporters, couriers, major dealers and street dealers.
Sixteen have been jailed, with four awaiting sentence on March 7.
HIDDEN under the layers of an international drug plot was a marriage of two people defined by the illegal business they were involved in.
The relationship between Diane and Richard Brookhouse started happily, the couple meeting in 1992 and living together in Locking Stumps a year later.
They started to raise a family but the harmony was shattered in October 2003 when Mr Brookhouse was jailed for 22 years for running a previous major drugs operation.
Mrs Brookhouse brought up two children, she claimed while struggling on benefits, but in truth it was his drug money that supported them.
Her claims of a wife left destitute were undone by revelations of thousands of pounds spent on botox and designer handbags, holidays, sports car and cosmetic surgery.
But despite undoubted financial support, the long prison sentence began to eat away at the bond between man and wife.
Mrs Brookhouse claimed during trial at Warrington Crown Court the relationship had broken down beyond repair.
She filed for divorce in January 2012 and started seeing other people but, crucially, Mr Brookhouse cut her off for money.
When her husband began day release weeks later, she claimed it was in the interests of her children they give things a go.
In reality, they were together due to his need for help, and her need for money for her children, but also a ticket to an easy lifestyle.
After being arrested, Mrs Brookhouse turned on her husband in an attempt to go free.
She claimed to be frighened of him, labelling him ‘aggressive and possessive’, ‘a fitness freak’ getting the family up at 6am for some ‘mad fitness routine’.
The mum-of-two even said Mr Brookhouse threatened to have her killed.
Judge Nicholas Woodward rubbished the claims, and said Mrs Brookhouse ‘knew exactly the sort of man’ her husband was, but ‘deliberately chose to stay with him’.
Not only did she know, but she played a key role in the drug operation, supporting her meal ticket as much as her husband.
Judge Woodward decided both parents bore ‘ultimate responsibility’ for the drug plot, and leaving their children without parents.
They were joined in holy matrimony, and, ultimately, joined by fate.