THE GIRLFRIEND of a drugs kingpin has been jailed for five years for her involvement in his multi-million pound cocaine conspiracy.

Sophie Plowman, 28, let Richard Gray store kilos of the class A drug at her flat in Songthrush Road, Banbury, and also let more than £24,000 in dirty cash be laundered through her bank account.

In May 2021, when police raided the flat where she lived with her primary-schooler son, 2.5kg of cocaine was found beneath a kitchen cabinet. Other equipment used to re-package the drug was also discovered.

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Jailing her for five years at Oxford Crown Court on Monday (January 23), Judge Michael Gledhill KC said it ‘beggared belief’ the single mum had found herself in the dock.

Plowman, of Mill Meadow, Witney, was found guilty last September of conspiracy to supply class A drugs.

The wider conspiracy, which started in 2020, was said to have peddled at least 55kgs of cocaine over around a year.

Gray’s girlfriend Plowman was agreed to have been involved in the supply of around 10kgs – although it was unclear whether she was aware of every package stored at her flat. She paid thousands of pounds of ‘dirty’ cash into her bank account, later transferring it to Gray.

During the trial she told the jury that, had she known what Gray was doing or if she had found the cocaine she would have called the police. She claimed her gym-mad boyfriend had come to the house to collect high-protein food, energy drinks or to have sex.

Prosecuting, Lisa Goddard told the judge on Monday: “The Crown accept, clearly, that Miss Plowman was used by Richard Gray in order to further his drug dealing operation. She acted only on his direction.

“It’s further accepted Miss Plowman was in a vulnerable state when Mr Gray first met her and he clearly exploited that vulnerability.

“There is no evidence she received any significant financial reward for her involvement in this case.”

Plowman had fallen pregnant to Gray. Having told her he wanted a family with her, Gray, who already had a long-term partner and children in Witney, was said to have callously told Plowman he had no need for another child.

It was accepted that the defendant’s played a ‘lesser role’ in the conspiracy, Ms Goddard said.

Oxford Mail: Sophie Plowman outside Oxford Crown CourtSophie Plowman outside Oxford Crown Court (Image: Oxford Mail)

Lucy Tapper, mitigating, said her client was ‘groomed by Richard Gray, believing – wanting to believe – he loved her’. She noted evidence Richard Gray had sought to hide his activities in her flat from her.

The barrister questioned the police's tactics in smashing down Plowman's front door with a 'battering ram' in May 2021. The arrest, during which she was unable to comfort her terrified young son, was described as an 'incredibly traumatic experience'.

Given the flat was under police surveillance, Ms Tapper pondered 'quite why it had to be dealt with in that way'. She added it 'must have contributed to her diagnosis' of post-traumatic stress disorder.

Sentencing, Judge Gledhill told Plowman: “You’re 28 years old, you have two children aged eight and one.

"Nobody questions the fact that you’re an excellent mother. You are a good daughter, you care for your mother with her medical problem. You assist your sister with her childcare arrangements. And every reference that I’ve read speaks of your positive good character.

“How on earth does it come about that a woman such as you should be sitting in this court facing a substantial term of imprisonment? It beggars belief.”

A previous relationship with the abusive father of her firstborn had ‘left her vulnerable’, the judge noted.

Oxford Mail: Richard GrayRichard Gray (Image: Thames Valley Police)

“Richard Gray came along and quite deliberately entered your life for purposes unconnected with love or care or compassion,” he said.

“He came into your life for the principal reason that he could see that you could be extremely useful to him as somebody who he could control and manipulate to his will by pretending and persuading you that he loved you.”

However, Judge Gledhill said Plowman was ‘perfectly capable’ of saying no to her boyfriend. He noted a conversation in Gray’s bugged van when she told him she no longer wanted to pay cash into the bank on his behalf.

Gray, previously described by the judge as a ‘serial philanderer’ was jailed for 21 years last July. Other members of the gang, including his brother and ‘trusted lieutenant’ Patrick, were jailed for a total of more than 50 years.