A FORMER semi-professional footballer has been jailed for more than five years after detectives busted a £17,000 drug operation.

Jamie Cooke, 34 from Brunel Road, Reading, pleaded guilty to a charge of possession with intent to supply heroin and cocaine following a police raid at a Caversham property in October 2019.

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Appearing via video link from HMP Bullingdon, Cooke, who played for teams including Henley Town FC and Hungerford Town FC, read a letter to Judge Kirsty Real telling how he had hit “rock bottom” ‘feeding his drug habit’.

Reading Chronicle:

Picture released by Thames Valley Police

Despite having previously been able to cut his drug use, the former semi-professional footballer told Reading Crown Court: “I am sorry for my actions yet again.”

He continued: “I have had so much time to think for once with a clear head.

“I’m back here again because using got me mixed up with the wrong crowd to support my habit.

“I just want to say sorry and I’m ready to change.”

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The former footballer, who has two previous drug trafficking convictions, was jailed alongside Christopher Jordan, 35 from Severn Way, Tilehurst, who was found guilty of the same charges as Cooke by a jury after a three-day trial.

Cooke and Jordan were found with class A drugs said to have a street value of £17,720 following the police raid.

More than £500 of cash was also found at the property, money the defendants claimed was “winnings from Ladbrokes”.

Prosecuting, Mr Michael Hillman said Jordan had a “number of previous convictions” including driving and drug crimes.

Jordan also appeared via video link but did not read from a letter — instead, Christopher Blake, defending, said there was “significant evidence to show he [Jordan] has actually embarked on his own form of rehab.”

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He added: “Mr Jordan has been spending his time [in prison] addressing his drug use.”

Mr Blake also suggested Jordan played a lesser role in any drug trafficking compared to Cooke, but Judge Kirsty Real said she ‘rejected’ this claim.

Summing up, she added: “You were both engaged in this on some level.

“Both of you have previous relevant convictions.

“I recognise that each of you has had a personal struggle with class A drugs.

“The court does recognise how difficult it is to stay clean.

“But both of you recognise that is not an excuse.”

Addressing Cooke, she said: “I really hope you can turn things around going forward.”

After hearing a character statement from his uncle, Judge Real told Jordan: “You do have skills and a good work ethic for the future.”

Judge Real sentenced Cooke to five years and 220 days in prison and Jordan to six years and seven months in prison at Reading Crown Court on Friday, February 7.

Both men will serve half their sentence before being eligible for release on licence.

PC Ellie Selby, based at Reading police station, said: "Tackling drugs supply remains a top priority for Thames Valley Police.

"We will actively seek to disrupt organised drug supply to protect our communities.

"Through Stronghold, we are committed to working in partnership to tackle serious organised crime and exploitation, such as county lines drug dealing.

"We continue to need the support of the public in this, and we would ask them to report any information that they have about drug dealing."