Drug baron accused of fire death

Portchester Fire Station

UPDATE: Six crews put out house fire in North End

A MAN killed in an arson attack was an innocent victim who got in the way of a ruthless drug dealer nicknamed 'Scarface', a court heard.

Kevin Holmes died in a block of flats in Milton Road, Portsmouth, while his friend Karl Hubbard was left with brain damage.

James Vaughan, who was the head of a multi-million pound drug ring, is accused of starting the blaze.

On the first day of his trial at Winchester Crown Court yesterday, the jury heard how Vaughan was trying to scare Freddie Fields - a drug dealer who lived in the flat below Mr Holmes - into paying up a 30,000 debt.

Prosecutor Christopher Parker QC said Vaughan set fire to a can of petrol just outside the main door to the building in the early hours of September 17, 2007.

There were 30 men, women and children inside the block.

While 26-year-old Fields, the target, escaped unharmed Mr Holmes, 40 and Mr Hubbard, 29, were not so lucky.

'Neither of those two men had anything to do with James Vaughan or his dealings,' Mr Parker said.

After the fire Vaughan carried on with his drug ring, which took in Portsmouth and Fareham, and even bragged that he had got away with it, the jury heard.

Mr Parker said: 'We say that James Vaughan is the man who was very much at the centre of this operation.

'He was, we say a ruthless and violent enforcer of drug debts owed to him.

'We say that he threatened debts with extreme violence.'

Vaughan's gang is said to have made millions of pounds.

Prosecutors say he imported a chemical from China to dilute the cocaine and increase his profits.

Mr Parker said Vaughan's violent behaviour was so shocking that he frightened the dealers he had working for him.

'At the start of 2009 we say he admitted, if not boasted, that he was indeed the man who was behind the fire,' he said.

The jury heard that eight other men had already admitted their part in the cocaine conspiracy.

Two others, Vaughan's older brother Gary and friend Simon Collins are accused of being part of the drug running.

Collins, 30, is alleged to have been a debt collector while Gary Vaughan is said to have started the dealing before his ambitious brother took over.

Vaughan, of no fixed address, denies manslaughter, causing grievous bodily harm and arson.

He has admitted conspiracy to supply cocaine between June 2006 and February 2010.

Gary Vaughan, of Brook Lane, Ferring, Worthing and Collins, of Marlborough Drive, Burgess Hill, both deny conspiracy to supply cocaine.