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The wife of a convicted drug lord who masterminded a massive heroin and cocaine smuggling plot has denied splurging his ill-gotten cash on botox, cosmetic dentistry and expensive salon cuts.
Prosecutors say glamorous Diane Brookhouse, 42, was “kept afloat” by drugs money to live an extravagant lifestyle “well and above” her legitimate means, the Liverpool Echo reports.
Her husband, crime baron Richard Brookhouse, was a key player in a drugs ring that imported more than £15m of heroin and cocaine into the UK via ‘fishing trips’ from France, much of which was destined for Merseyside.
The 45-year-old orchestrated the massive conspiracy while serving a 22-year drugs sentence with the help of former Liverpool boxing champion Karl Wall and a web of other crooks.
Diane Brookhouse, of Coronation Avenue, Grappenhall, is accused of helping him run his illegal business by ferrying him to meetings while on day release from prison and acting as his “secretary”.
She denies knowing of her husband’s activities.
Liverpool Post & Echo
Warrington Crown Court was told that the mum-of-two, who said she claimed £1,400 in state benefits each month, leased two luxury cars – a Mercedes CLC 180 Sport and a Volkswagen Golf convertible - and allegedly spent almost £1,300 at the hairdressers, making 16 visits to a Toni and Guy salon in just over a year.
The jury heard that she went for botox treatments three times a month for around two years and spent £6,000 on dental veneers. Upon her arrest in April, police also found a £1,215 receipt for a handbag by the designer brand Chloe and £440 cash in her purse.
Brookhouse told a jury she “struggled” for cash while her husband was in prison and was surviving on benefits.
She claimed she had obtained £43,000 in equity when her home was taken in confiscation proceedings against her husband and had spent it on “stupid things”, including getting her teeth done, instead of paying off a raft of long-standing debts.
She claimed that botox treatments worked out at only £12 a month, that a £40-a-month iPhone contract was paid for by a friend and the Chloe handbag was a wedding anniversary gift.
Neil Flewitt, QC, cross-examining, put to her: “Your lifestyle is not something that you could have supported on state benefits.”
Brookhouse replied: “I didn’t have a lifestyle. I had a lot of help from my family and I did not have a lifestyle. I had money of my own and I made stupid decisions with what I spent it on but I didn’t mean I had a lifestyle.”
Asked to describe her financial situation while her husband was behind bars, Brookhouse said: “Over the years we have really struggled at times. The kids have had to share a McDonalds. I have had to borrow money. One Christmas I was given chocolates as a gift and we had no Christmas food whatsoever but I knew we were going to mum’s the next day. I let the children eat the chocolate as their tea.”
Jurors were told that Brookhouse halted divorce proceedings against her husband, whom she described as "threatening" and "possessive", and redeemed her wedding and engagement ring from a pawnbrokers soon before he was released on licence in early 2012.
She insisted that was because she wanted to rekindle her failing relationship solely for the sake of her two children. Mr Flewitt claimed it was because she knew the “gravy train was back in the station”.
Brookhouse denied knowing what her husband was up to while on day release and said he would drive them to quiet locations where he would meet gang members including Wall.
She told the jury: “I didn’t know what was happening. Richard would get out of the vehicle. He would never speak in front of me."
But Mr Flewitt said: “This idea that you were being forced against your will to part with your telephone and to go to meetings is nonsense. You knew which side your bread was buttered. This idea of you being dragged against your will and having your telephone taken off you is nonsense.”
The court also heard that a quantity of amphetamine was found in Brookhouse’s home when she was arrested in April.
She said “girls in Manchester” had given it to her as a weight-loss aid.
She said: “It was just when I was having a fat day. If I am going out on the weekend and I couldn’t get into my clothes, I could take a bit of that and lose a couple of pounds really quickly.”
The brunette is in the dock alongside co-accused Stephen Crane, 55, of Lutterworth, Leicestershire, and Ikhlaq Hussain, 25, of Bury. All three deny conspiracy to supply cocaine and heroin.
The court heard that the drugs were trafficked into Britain by a 19-strong gang using chartered fishing breaks to the continent as cover.
The plot unravelled after a trip to northern France in April last year when officers detained two men loading a van with a haul including cocaine with a street value of £15m of cocaine and £400,000 worth of heroin.
The other 16 gang members, including Wall, of Poplar Close, Halewood; Gerard Mooney, 30, of Denstone Avenue, Aintree and Darren Williams, 38, of Crompton Drive, West Derby, have admitted various charges of conspiracy to supply drugs.