A DRUG dealer armed with lethal weapons including a modified shotgun and a sword is now behind bars.

Ryan Whittington was jailed for seven years and 11 months at Worcester Crown Court on Tuesday, his offences coming to light after he suffered a breakdown and told a mental health team he was thinking of shooting himself.

The 34-year-old of New Carriage House, Bartestree, between Hereford and Ledbury, admitted a string of drugs offences, including being concerned in the supply of cocaine and MDMA (ecstasy), both class A drugs, and cannabis (class B) between January 1, 2018 and February 8 this year. He also admitted possession with intent to supply Diazepam (class C), handling a shotgun stolen in a burglary in 2018 in Leicestershire, possession of the shotgun and possession of ammunition without certificates and possession of prohibited weapons - a stun gun and CS spray - and possession of a bladed article - a sword found in a scabbard in his car. They found 18 tablets of Diazepam and 18 tablets of MDMA.

Officers seized the shotgun from his home on January 19 this year. The shotgun had been modified to hold five cartridges instead of three although the Crown accepted this adaption was not made by the defendant.

In a WhatsApp conversation Whittington indicated he had two guns the police had not found. Other prohibited weapons were later found because the defendant had not cleared his home after the first search. During their investigations, officers also seized £680 in cash.

Timothy Sapwell, prosecuting, said in these messages, found on the defendant's mobile phone, the Whittington said he kept the weapons 'for security in relation to his drug dealing enterprise', using the shotgun to deter people from breaking into his garage.

He also indicated in those messages that he knew the shotgun was stolen. Messages also included references to selling drugs on credit, employing a delivery driver and cutting the drugs with a bulking agent. Whittington also referred to supplying between 6kg and 8kg of cannabis in Hereford but Mr Sapwell acknowledged 'it may be a humorous exaggeration to the recipient'.

He said: "During January 2021 he spoke on the telephone with a mental health counselling service and made reference to having a shotgun and wanting to shoot himself. The mental health team raised concerns with the police."

The defendant had two convictions for section 20 grievous bodily harm. One was from 2012, for which he received a suspended sentence, and the other from 2015 for which he was jailed for 18 months.

These convictions meant he was barred from possessing any type of gun, a fact the judge who sentenced him said he 'knew full well'.

Speaking of the aggravating features in the case, Mr Sapwell said: "He was involving others for reward, buying in bulk in high purity, cutting it for profit and employing others."

Recorder Rachel Brand QC, sentencing, said: "Here you are, convicted on your own admission of serious drugs and firearms offences."

She added: "You were willing to deal in a number of different types of drugs of class A, B and C. You were willing to source many types of drugs upon request."

The judge accepted he was not necessarily involved in drug dealing 'every single moment of every single day' but she argued that he was 'heavily immersed in the world of drug dealing'.

"Therefore you perceived the need to gather prohibited weapons including lethal weapons in order to protect yourself" she told him.

Against this she balanced a number of mitigating features, including his guilty pleas 'without hesitation, really'. She added: "It's clear you had some sort of mental breakdown."

The court heard how the defendant had suffered the loss of his grandfather two years ago and that Whittington had taken over his building business after he died.

Recorder Brand jailed him for seven years and 11 months. She also ordered the forfeiture and destruction of the drugs, drugs paraphernalia, weapons and ammunition. Whittington can expect to serve two thirds of that sentence on licence and the remainder on licence in the community. No proceeds of crime application has been made.