POLICE who raided a house in Carlisle which was the HQ of a county lines drug dealing operation found a crossbow on the landing, loaded and pointing at the front door.

At the city's crown court today, a judge handed down lengthy jail terms to two men and a woman who were all involved in the illegal heroin and crack cocaine dealing operation, which saw drug bosses sending out hundreds of text messages advertising the drugs over 16 days.

The three defendants involved – Laura McGannan, 33, Luke Waeling, 34, and 22-year-old Alexander Nyarashe – admitted conspiring to supply the two Class A drugs.

Nyarashe also admitted possessing cannabis with intent to supply and possessing a bladed article – a machete – in Liverpool.

Prosecutor Jane Dagnall said police were alerted to a new “county lines” drug supply operation which went live in Carlisle on May 2 last year.

Dealers were sending out hundreds of text message adverts to local users on a dedicated order line.

“This was operated until May 18,” said Miss Dagnall.

She described the police raid on an address in Millholme Avenue, Currock, Carlisle, on May 18, where all three defendants had been basing themselves for the dealing operation.

“A crossbow was found loaded and at the front door – it was on the landing,” said Miss Dagnall. Inside the house, Nyarashe was caught in the bathroom attempting to flush four "golf-ball sized" drugs packages - heroin and crack cocaine - down the toilet.

In total, the drugs found were worth £3,700.

Also found was evidence of the drug dealing operation, which included weighing scales and plastic bags. Police also searched McGann’s home, finding cash and bank cards.

Nicholas Peacock, for McGannan, of Dalton Avenue, Raffles, said she had started a new life in Carlisle after suffering violence at the hands of a previous partner.

But she had been befriended by somebody involved in drug dealing.

“She became addicted,” said Mr Peacock.

Despite this, she had enrolled on a University of Cumbria course to take a BA Honours degree in primary education, though she had now switched to another course and this was still open to her.

“She now has her drug problem under control,” added the barrister.

Jeff Smith, for Waeling, of George Street, Hastings, who also admitted illegally carrying a bladed article without good reason, said he got involved in the plot after meeting McGannan, who asked him to travel north with her after she was burgled.

He had helped prepare the drugs for sale, and his reward was heroin.

But he was now drug free, said Mr Smith.

Nyarashe, of Rossall Road, Liverpool, fell into offending after losing his job, said his defence barrister Nicola Daley.

Judge Nicholas Barker said the evidence found at the property in Millholme Avenue showed the defendants were involved in a drug dealing operation that was “of some size.”

McGannan was involved for five days.

The judge added: “You will all understand that being involved in county lines drugs supply is a serious and significant matter and it is of course obvious that supplying class A drugs is serious and it causes a great deal of pain and suffering to those who are involved in drugs as some of you recognise.”

McGannan was jailed for 28 months; Waeling for 31 months and Nyarashe for a total of three and a half years.