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Gran led secret double life batch cooking spice


Gail Cotton, 55, kept her job as a part-time cleaning manager and sold drugs to prisoners on the side (Pictures: Cavendish Press/Rex Features)

A grandma has been living a double life and batch cooking drugs to supply to people inside Britain’s prisons.

Gail Cotton, 55, worked part time as a cleaning manager while she used her kitchen to make spice.

She impregnated the ‘zombie drug’ into sheets of paper and made them look like penned letters so she could get them into jails.

Cotton, who was known locally for helping her daughter finish a 10-kilometre Race For Life cancer fundraising event, imported her ingredients from China and coordinated with a contact in Australia called ‘Aussie Joe’. 

Cotton, nicknamed ‘Mrs Big’, helped supply drugs to prisoners all over the UK, including jails in Liverpool and Scotland. 

She would organise her sales over text message, which she kept five different SIM cards for. 

At one point, she told a buyer she could not sell him a ‘book’ of spice-filled pages because books ‘do not dry properly’. 

Officers found £80,000 worth of drugs in Cotton’s house, in Oldham, Greater Manchester, when they searched the home last November following a tip-off.

Cotton was known locally for helping her daughter complete a 10-kilometre fundraising run for cancer (Picture: Cavendish Press)
Spice is usually made with cannabis, chemicals such as acetone and dried herbs (Picture: Rex Features)

There were two Vanish tubs of cocaine under her sink (worth £6,000) along with another tub of MDMA (worth between £10,400 and £14,000) and 14 grams of designer cannabis (worth £160). 

In the outer building, officers found 940 grams of spice which is worth between £4,080 and £9,400. 

Initially, officers did not realise the acetone they found, an ingredient used in nail varnish remover, was being used to make spice.

When they returned to Cotton’s property a few hours later, her daughter had been to the house and the acetone was gone. 

There are different recipes for spice but it is often made with cannabis, dried herbs such as oregano and chemicals including acetone. 

Spice can have many effects but has earned its fame from online footage showing people paralysed or hallucinating while on the drug.

Synthetic cannabis reacts more strongly with the brain’s receptors than regular cannabis and this makes it easy to use too much of the drug and experience dangerous results. 

‘The value of spice in prison is up to four times higher than the value on the street,’ prosecutor Verity Quaite told Minshull Street Crown Court. 

Cotton, who lives in the Clarksfield area of Oldham, has now been jailed for three years. 

Her defence lawyer admitted that her role should be classified as ‘leading’ but stressed that there were ‘others involved’. 

He told the court: ‘There is no argument to the level of harm and aggravating features to supply into prisons, I take no issues with that.

Cotton was jailed for three years after the judge told her that ‘spice in prison causes very serious harm’ (Picture: Cavendish Press)

‘There may be others above her – that is a real possibility and there is nothing on her record that aggravates her position.’

Speaking directly to Cotton, Judge Tina Landale said: ‘Spice in prison causes very serious harm indeed.

‘Firstly, for the prisoners, as well as the intimidation and bullying it causes family members to bring it into prison and also for the staff inside the prison. It has repercussions for the whole community. 

‘For the staff inside prisons it causes lawlessness, problem behaviour, disorder and aggression.

‘There are a significant number of family members who will suffer as a result of your actions.’ 

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