POLICE have launched an urgent appeal for help in finding an inmate who has absconded from a Warrington prison.

Cheshire Police is actively appealing for information that may help officers locate William Ferguson.

The 43-year-old was serving a five-year sentence for drugs offences when he was last seen at HM Prison Thorn Cross in Appleton Thorn just after 9am on Saturday.

He is described as being white, around 6’2” tall, of large build with greying hair and brown eyes, and he has links to the Manchester and Salford areas.

A spokesman for Cheshire Police said: “Officers are currently carrying out a number of enquiries in a bid to trace him, and they are urging anyone with information as to his whereabouts to get in touch.”

Anyone who sees Ferguson, or knows of his whereabouts, is urged to call Cheshire Police on 101, quoting IML 1749104, or visit cheshire.police.uk/tell-us/

Information can also be passed anonymously to Crimestoppers by calling 0800 555 111 or visiting crimestoppers-uk.org

Ferguson was previously jailed in March 2022 along with 13 other members of the Long Haired Luke 2 county lines heroin and crack cocaine gang.

Their combined jail terms totalled 59 years and 10 months, with Ferguson handed a term of five years behind bars.

The organised crime group was responsible for peddling between 1.7kg and 3.5kg of the class A drugs – illicit substances worth up to an estimated £356,000 – on the streets of Warrington over the course of five months during 2021.

Based in Salford, the operation first emerged in February last year but quickly became the most lucrative heroin and crack cocaine dealing gang in the town.

Members took over addresses across the borough and used graft phones in order to send ‘flare’ texts to users, alerting them to the availability of drugs.

One such message, circulated to 79 customers, read: “Long Haired Luke back on 24/7, all day and all night every day – the fattest and best stuff in Warrington.”

A total of 16,094 flare text messages were sent out by the OCG during the period of the conspiracy.

Gang safehouses were located on Longshaw Street in Bewsey, Gough Avenue in Longford, Pickmere Street in Sankey Bridges, Gregory Close and Cavendish Close in Old Hall and Cumberland Street and Kingsway South in Latchford.

The court heard Ferguson was essentially a driver of another gang member making drug drops.

Long Haired Luke 2 was one of 11 county lines gangs brought down in summer 2021 when Cheshire Police raided 28 addresses across the north west following the covert investigation codenamed Operation Spartans.

In total, 42 men and women were charged and convicted of drugs offences in connection with the investigation.

In sentencing, judge Andrew Menary said: “The operators of these particular conspiracies moved significant quantities of drugs from Manchester to Warrington, where they were dealt to drug users.

“It was plainly a very successful operation, trading 24 hours a day.”