Gangland “General” from Hornchurch sent down

AN ESSEX gangster known in the criminal underworld as “The General” or “The Colonel” has been locked up for nine years for firearms and drugs offences.

Prolific offender Mark Rothermel, of Park Lane, Hornchurch, was jailed for possession of five firearms – a multi-purpose pistol, double-barrelled shotgun, pump action shotgun, self-loading shotgun, and silencer – and ammunition and stashing 1.649kg of amphetamine in numerous bags found hidden around his flat with intent to supply.

Three further drugs charges and two charges each for possession of a stun gun were ordered to lie on file.

He hid the Class B drug in bags under the base of his shower, in bin liners at the bottom of a wardrobe and in the divan of a bed and in two cartons of orange juice in his kitchen.

Notorious Rothermel, 50, who has a history of convictions for gangland crime since the 1990s and was on licence for a previous offence of dealing amphetamine, showed no reaction when he was sentenced at Basildon Crown Court on Wednesday.

His previous convictions include helping to dispose of the body of crook Bernard Burns, who was strangled and decapitated after upsetting Essex gangsters The Firm in 1989 – the same firm whose mobster bosses were murdered in Rettendon in 1995, drug smuggling, making a false representation in order to obtain a passport, attempting to abscond from the dock in a courtroom surrounded by armed police (though his lawyer at the time said it was a joke), and escaping an African prison after being tortured following his arrest on suspicion of being a British spy when he was supposedly on a charity mission in Congo.

Territorial Support Group Officers on burglary and street patrol foiled Rothermel when they clocked a red van parked at an angle outside his Hornchurch flat on December 8 last year, Basildon Crown Court heard.

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They approached Rothermel who was removing items from inside the van and searched him.

They found �1500 cash in the left front pocket of his shorts which he claimed was from his girlfriend’s mother for him to buy a new van, the court heard.

But when they asked questions Rothermel said he lived there and tried to excuse himself, claiming he had left his front door open and then made off along a Romford road. Officers caught him shortly after.

A full search of the house and van were carried out using a police dog.

Prosecutor Miss Nneka Akudolu, said PC Trevor White searched the kitchen area where he found two “unusually heavy” cartons of orange juice which were found to contain bags full of white powder - amphetamine.

“The dog showed an interest in one of the bedrooms where a pile of bags were in the middle of the floor which were found to contain controlled drugs including white powder, tablets, and broken bits of white rocks,” Miss Akudolu said.

More was found in bags at the bottom of a wardrobe in the same room along with a quantity of latex gloves, rubber bands and freezer bags.

In the second bedroom bags containing a black handgun, silencer, two magazine clips and a double-barrelled shotgun were found in an open draw under the bed.

And in the van was a black plastic bag containing a pump action shotgun and self-loading shotgun along with some ammunition for a different weapon.

They also searched his girlfriend’s home in Kent Road, Dagenham, where he was living at the time, and a quantity of diamorphine was found in a shed which Rothermel later claimed he obtained from a dying friend.

Rothermel refused to respond in police interviews, only admitting to possession of the firearms in March this year. He claimed he bought them from someone who he refused to name “as a favour” and intended to take to them to a legitimate gun shop the next day.

He denied being responsible for the drugs at Park Lane, though claimed he knew who was but wouldn’t name them, and was due to face trial but changed his plea to guilty on Tuesday this week.

But still at the sentencing hearing, where extra security was drafted in as a precaution, Rothermel requested to take the stand where he continued to claim he only saw the drugs when dropping off the firearms and thought it best to “tidy them away”.

Rothermel, in a white polo shirt and grey joggers, said: “They weren’t mine. But I allowed myself to be put in that position so I have to accept everything that was there.”

Sentencing Rothermel Judge Boothby said: “Your account I found bizarre and unbelievable.”

He said: “You are a professional criminal on who nothing less than a long prison sentence can be visited.”

“I fear the court will probably see you again.”

Outside court Sgt John Kirby said: “He’s an organised criminal and a dangerous man. The best place for him and everyone else is behind bars.”

Supt Tony Bennett of Havering Police said: “We are delighted with the outcome on this case. The removal of weapons and drugs from the streets of Havering is a priority and this arrest made significant inroads into criminal activity and trading in both.

“I would like to praise the efforts of the territorial support group whose instinctive stop in a quiet residential street uncovered a dangerous and organised criminal.”