/John Haase associate Paul Ben Bennett released from prison

John Haase associate Paul Ben Bennett released from prison

A well known criminal who was jailed alongside John Haase for a plot to pervert the course of justice has also been released from prison, the ECHO can reveal.

Bennett and Haase were jailed for life in 2008 after it emerged that they were behind a plot which misled customs officers, police, a Crown Court judge and a serving Home Secretary.

Last week the ECHO revealed that Haase had been released from HMP Full Sutton and was back in Liverpool.

He is said to be living in the Park Road area and had been seen at the bus stop. Haase is said to be fit and well.

A police mughshot of John Haase
(Image: met police)

We can now reveal that Bennett, Haase’s co-accused, has also been released from prison. The ECHO understands that Bennett , known as ‘Ben’ in Liverpool, was released several months before Haase. 

A former associate of Bennett’s told the ECHO that he saw him in Liverpool last year and that he looked ‘just the same.’ Bennett, from north Liverpool, was a significant drug dealer in the 1990s with international contacts and connections.

Why we’re doing this story – We have a mix of stories, many of them hugely positive about the city. We will not though, ignore crime as it impacts on many lives.

In deciding which crimes to write about, we consider a range of issues including the severity of the crime, the threat to public safety and the wider context in which it happened. We do not seek to glamorise crime or criminals, rather to shine a spotlight on what is happening in our city.

In this case, it is a follow-up to the initial story we reported last night after Penny Lane was closed off.

How we’re doing this story – This story was written after further information was released by Merseyside Police.

Anything else you need to know – The Liverpool Echo has a dedicated crime reporter in Joe Thomas. You can email Joe via joe.thomas@reachplc.com

Thanks for reading. if you want to ask us any more questions about what the Liverpool Echo does, please email neil.macdonald01@reachplc.com

A former criminal who remembered Bennett from the old days spoke to the ECHO.

The man, who asked not be named, said: “Ben lived on Stopgate Lane just off the East Lancs. He was just on the edge of Norris Green and mates with the lads from the Sparrowhall estate. To me he was part of a group of around 20 lads who all sold drugs.

“But this was the end of the 80s when a lot of lads on the estates sold drugs. The club scene had just exploded and everyone was selling. I always liked Ben and thought he was quite a cool guy. He was fairly quiet and low key.

“When the police began finding all the guns in the mid 90s I knew what was going on. When they managed to get released it was unbelievable – like something out of a movie. I just hope Ben is okay now and away from that world.”

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Gangs of Liverpool

In the early 90s Haase and Bennett were two of the first Liverpool criminals to make contact with Turkish drug dealers in London. The two Liverpool men became embroiled in a massive plot to the flood the UK with off-the-boat quality heroin.

However a massive police covert surveillance operation was underway.  Haase and Bennett were driving down a London street when armed police carried out a dramatic hard stop, ramming their car off the road. Haase later said in a sworn affadavit that he thought he was ‘going to die’ during the arrest.

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Haase and Bennett were both later charged with conspiracy to supply Class A drugs and remanded in custody. But meanwhile they were in charge of a massive haul of heroin worth around £1.5m which was now in Liverpool.

Haase made contact with a customs officer called Paul Cook, and said he wanted to do a deal.  Haase then began to supply Mr Cook with information about arms dumps on Merseyside.

When police and customs raided the areas identified by Haase, they found hauls of weapons and explosives.

A police mugshot of Paul Bennett which was released in 2008
(Image: PA)

At the time the Provisional IRA was still waging a terror campaign in the UK and there was some suggestion the weapons could be linked to a terrorist cell on the mainland.

At one point Haase and Bennett created a rumour that the Turksih mafia were planning to attack Paul Cook and his family.

The threat was taken seriously at the time and put Mr Cook under enormous duress. In 1995 Judge David Lynch jailed Haase and Bennett to 18 years in prison each.

However rumours began to swirl around the city after Haase and Bennett were spotted back in Liverpool the following year.  It then emerged that Judge Lynch had written to then Home Secretary Michael Howard and recommended a Royal Pardon for the men.

Mr Howard has said that he acted in good faith based on the recommendations of senior officials and judges. Haase had returned to Liverpool and set up a security firm called Big Brother in Crosby which concentrated on managing commercial sites across the city.

In  July 1997 the ECHO revealed that Haase was running security at the city’s Heritage Market.  At the time his solicitor told the ECHO that Haase had turned his back on crime. But toward the end of the 90s the net began to close in on Haase and Bennett. Haase, from Everton, was implicated in a new weapons’ plot and jailed in 2001.

The Liverpool Echo reports on John Haase in the 90s

Bennett, linked to a drugs conspiracy, fled the UK in 99. However the Metropolitan Police launched a massive investigation  into the circumstances surrounding the release of Haase and Bennett. Bennett was later held by police in Portugal and extradited back to the UK.

 In 2008 it emerged that Haase and Bennett had orchestrated a ruse, using contacts on the outside to plant the firearms. The haul of 150 illegal guns included Kalashnikov assault weapons, Armalite rifles, Thompson machine guns, Bren guns, Uzi sub-machine guns and over 1,500 rounds of ammunition. Benett was jailed for 20 years and Haase for 22 years.        

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Scotland Yard Detective Superintendent Graham McNulty, who led the investigation, spoke after the men were both jailed.

He said: “From inside they were able to arrange the transport, finance, contacts and firearms over a long period of time and at great cost. It was incredible.

‘It corrupted the criminal justice system.”

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