Underworld dealer and associate locked up for more than 37 years as part of organised crime crackdown

Chris Dixon (left) and Elliot Hopewell (right).Chris Dixon (left) and Elliot Hopewell (right).
Chris Dixon (left) and Elliot Hopewell (right). | Northumbria Police (left) and South Yorkshire Police (right)
Officers uncovered around 6,000 messages from a phone which boasted sales of Spice, amphetamine and a range of weapons

An underworld dealer with an “unprecedented involvement” in the UK’s illegal firearms trade has been jailed alongside an associate after their offending came to light following the country’s biggest crime crackdown. 

Chris Dixon and Elliot Hopewell were identified during a specialist operation in 2020 which saw law enforcement gain access to encrypted devices as part of a push to tackle serious and organised crime.

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Officers uncovered around 6,000 messages from Dixon’s phone which boasted sales of Spice, amphetamine and a range of weapons, including a hand-grenade and a Uzi submachine gun.

Messages also documented how Hopewell assisted Dixon with the sale of a Colt special revolver for £7,500 to a third party, who openly disclosed needing the item for criminal acts.

Further messages highlighted how Hopewell sold Dixon 20kg of Spice with the aim of it being distributed in prisons for maximum profit.

Dixon was also found to be running an amphetamine factory from a flat in Benwell.

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Officers from Northumbria Police’s Crime Department began carefully compiling a case as part of Operation Sentinel, the Force’s response to tackling serious and organised crime.

Detectives monitored Dixon’s movements as he travelled across Newcastle, and further afield to Wetherby and Merseyside for clandestine meetings.

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When officers executed a warrant at his home on June 15, he knew the game was up, telling them: “I’ve been waiting for you,” before he was arrested and taken into custody.

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Searches at his Kibblesworth home was one of four carried out that day, with properties in Benwell, Westerhope and Slatyford also raided.

Almost £20,000 in cash was seized along with 770g of amphetamine, a range of drugs paraphernalia and anti-surveillance equipment including a scanning device found in Dixon’s car.

Then on July 23, officers from Northumbria Police and South Yorkshire Police attended Hopewell’s address in Sheffield, where he was also arrested.

The pair were both charged and later appeared at Newcastle Crown Court. In the months that followed, Dixon pleaded guilty to conspiracy to supply prohibited weapons, selling or transferring a prohibited weapon, conspiracy to supply Spice and conspiracy to supply amphetamine.

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Hopewell later admitted conspiracy to supply prohibited weapons, conspiracy to supply heroin, conspiracy to supply cocaine, conspiracy to supply spice and conspiracy to supply Ketamine.

On Thursday, November 23, they were jailed as follows:

  • Dixon, 44, of Gardiner Square, Kibblesworth, Gateshead, was sentenced to 22 years in prison.
  • Hopewell, 40, of Greenwood Avenue, Sheffield, was sentenced to 15 years and five months in prison.

Speaking after the sentencing, Detective Chief Inspector Marc Michael from Northumbria Police said: “Our investigation into Dixon and Hopewell uncovered an unprecedented involvement in the sale of illegal firearms and illicit drugs. It is only right that they are now commencing a significant term of imprisonment.

“Dixon was a prolific purveyor of guns and drugs. We uncovered evidence he had access to lethal weapons such as a hand grenade, an AK 47, and even an Uzi submachine gun.

"Both him and Hopewell knew they were selling weapons to dangerous, violent offenders who sought illegal firearms for the sole purpose of furthering their own interests within the serious and organised crime world, and this type of activity cannot go unpunished.

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“Not only this, but they conspired to sell highly addictive drugs and planned to sell Spice, an incredibly harmful substance, to prison inmates for high prices.

“Thanks to a complex investigation which began with Operation Venetic, the international infiltration of encrypted devices, we were able to build a solid case documenting not just the criminal exploits of Dixon and Hopewell, but also their brazen and arrogant attitudes.

“Following years of criminal proceedings, our involvement is now over and I would like to take this opportunity to thank all of the officers and staff, and partners, whose work has helped achieve more than 37 years of jail time combined as a result.

“Through Operation Sentinel, offenders will be pursued and brought before the courts and our communities will be protected and empowered. 

To report concerns or suspicious activity, please use the ‘Tell Us Something’ page on the Northumbria Police website.