A COCAINE dealer was battered in the street by one of his co-accused minutes after they were sentenced for their roles in a drugs distribution network.
Gareth 'Chud' Vannan was left in a bloody heap after Jordan Madine floored him four times in front of shocked members of the public outside the Victoria Square complex in Belfast city centre.
Minutes earlier they had appeared at Laganside Crown Court to be sentenced for their involvement in a money-spinning drugs racket.
Vannan (47) was jailed for 18 months for possessing cocaine and diazepam with intent to supply, but because of time served he walked free.
As he passed Victoria Square, he was confronted by an irate Madine, who had been sentenced to two years' probation for dealing diazepam and other drugs.
Because of coronavirus regulations, the 26-year-old had appeared in court via video-link from his solicitor's office in Belfast city centre.
Madine ambushed Vannan, calling him a "rat" and flooring him with a punch to the jaw.
Vannan, who pleaded "I'm no tout, Jordan", got up three times, only to be knocked down again.
During the beating, his attacker screamed at him: "That gear was yours - it had f*** all to do with me."
A dazed Vannan, blood pouring from his nose and mouth, staggered away with the assistance of a friend while Madine ran off in the opposite direction.
Minutes earlier Belfast Crown Court had been told how police uncovered the drug-dealing racket during coordinated raids in August 2018.
In Vannan's Glencairn Pass home they discovered more than 340g of cocaine with a purity varying between 60% and 93%, along with 8,900 diazepam tablets, 14 boxes of the same pills and 1,120 pregabalin tablets.
Lists detailing cash owed were also found, along with £660, weighing scales and a hydraulic press for packaging cocaine.
DNA samples taken from the drugs were a match for Madine, Belfast City Council worker William Courtney (44) and a third accused, Darren Hogg, who will be sentenced next week.
Belfast Crown Court was told the drugs were bought online and delivered by mail to Courtney's home on Glencairn Way.
They were then collected from his back garden by Madine and Hogg, who brought the packages to Vannan for wider distribution.
During questioning, Vannan told detectives he was forced to hold onto the drugs by an unnamed party and that he was acting under duress - an explanation dismissed as a "lie" by Judge Patricia Smyth.
Sentencing him to 18 months in custody and 18 months on probation, she said: "There is no question that this was a commercial operation. If you were not the owner of the drugs, you were the custodian and distributor."
Because of time served, Vannan, who has 82 previous criminal convictions, walked free from court.
Madine, the man who would ambush him minutes later, was placed on probation for two years after the court was told he suffered from "significant mental health and addiction issues".
Judge Smyth revealed the defendant had been taking drugs since childhood, with his mother giving him his first diazepam tablet when he was a young teenager "to calm him down".
Witnesses to Madine's assault on Vannan were left shocked by its ferocity.
Some tried to help the older victim, whose face was left crimson with blood, but he declined their offer, preferring to stumble off with the help of a friend.
Sunday Life is aware that paramilitaries on the Shankill Road have been keeping a close eye on the cocaine and diazepam case.
Vannan, who is originally from the area, had been living in Newtownards after falling out with members of UVF 'A Company' and the West Belfast UDA's Highfield unit.
Council cleaning worker William Courtney, who was sentenced to two years' probation for drug dealing, is also friendly with some UVF A Company members.
Since pleading guilty, the terror gang is understood to have barred him from every pub on the Shankill Road.