A DRUG dealer who attempted to sell heroin and crack cocaine to undercover police after mistaking them for customers is behind bars thanks to an eagle-eyed off-duty officer.

Farooq Ali, who attempted to swallow his stash when he was caught, was spotted plying his trade in Worcester by DC Alex Pullen.

The West Mercia Police detective was commended by the sentencing judge who said the case proved our police are 'never off-duty'.

Ali, aged 49, of Broadway Grove, Worcester was jailed for four years at Hereford Crown Court after dealing the drugs near the canal in Shrub Hill Retail Park in Worcester, hiding his stash in a crack in a wall.

DC Pullen saw Ali at noon on New Year's Day trying to retrieve items from a bush and the open shoulder bag he was wearing contained a large amount of cash.

Police had already identified the area as 'a drugs supply hotspot' and officers suspected Ali was using the bush as a stash point.

On January 3, two days after he was spotted by DC Pullen, plain clothes officers returned to the area and Ali was seen yet again as were known class A drug users.

A spokesman for West Mercia Police said: "On seeing the officers from a distance, Ali started to gesticulate to them by giving a thumbs up sign and directing them to call him, leading officers to suspect they had been mistaken for prospective customers. Ali later confirmed this in interview.

"Ali was approached where he attempted to swallow a package containing street deals of heroin and crack cocaine worth £60.

"Officers restrained Ali and this package was recovered."

The canal area was searched and the drugs stash found within the broken brick work of a nearby wall. This contained £350 worth of crack cocaine and heroin. In interview Ali accepted placing the drugs there.

He pleaded guilty to possession of heroin and crack cocaine with intent to supply at his first crown court hearing and was sentenced to four years in prison on Monday.

Judge Nicholas Cole praised the professionalism and hard work of the CID Proactive team which he said demonstrated that police are never off duty.

Read more: Judge and police chief promise: 'Worcester is not a soft touch'

DC Pullen said: “The convictions and custodial sentences received by these individuals reflect the hard work undertaken in tackling County Lines. This includes targeting those further up the hierarchical chain responsible for the misery caused within our communities.

"The team remains committed to making Worcester a hostile environment to those involved in Class A drugs supply.

"Since 2019 started our team have arrested 11 individuals for drugs supply offences, eight of which have been charged and remanded to prison. We will not stop."

Those who suspect drug dealing is taking place can call West Mercia Police on 101.