A ‘HITMAN’ was hired to kill two underworld bosses a drug gang owed money to, a court heard yesterday.

He had a sub-machine gun but he had planned to use that for a robbery instead, it was alleged.

Anthony Hearn, 44, is accused of conspiring with the gang to kill the two men after they were under pressure to pay off debts.

This followed an investigation which led to Sussex Police detectives seizing £1.4 million of Class A drugs and £100,000 cash.

A jury at Hove Crown Court heard that Leo Alan Ellis, 23, from Hastings, Jason Caswell, 41, from London, Kenny Kelly, 36, from London, his brother Steven Kelly, 48, and Hearn conspired to kill Kevin Wise and another man known only as M.

Another man, Jamie Peter Winchester, 24, from St Leonards, supplied the gang with a TEC-9 style 9mm automatic sub-machine pistol with a silencer and ammunition to be used by Hearn to carry out the hits, the court heard.

Ian Henderson, defending Hearn, said: “He told you all he is no angel.

“Why would he want to kill either man? He spoke of the effects his uncle’s killing had on his mother. Mr Hearn said he had the gun to commit a robbery.

“Where is the evidence of any money exchanging hands?”

The ammunition was the wrong type for the gun and would have caused it to jam when fired, the court heard.

Mr Henderson asked jurors: “Is this really what a professional assassin would choose or use out of choice?”

The drugs and cash were seized by detectives as part of Operation Lancehead which prosecutor Dale Sullivan told the court was an investigation into drug dealing and money laundering by Caswell in Kent and Ellis in Sussex.

The operation made three major seizures of cash, heroin and cocaine in October 2015 from cars and addresses in the county and in London.

Forensic experts deciphered encrypted Blackberry mobile phone emails sent between members of the gang between February 28 and March 1 last year.

Prosecutor Mr Sullivan previously told the court: “From the encrypted emails between Caswell, Ellis, Kevin Wise and others it is clear Leo Ellis and Jason Caswell were answerable to Kevin Wise and another man called Ted and they were in turn answerable to somebody called M.”

Mr Henderson said: “Mr Hearn was no part of these messages. Kevin Wise is as we understand it a debt collector. What would killing him achieve?”

The Crown said the gang collectively arranged the assassinations by February 29 last year.

On March 1 last year, some of the defendants met at The Ship pub in Winchelsea, then moved to another pub before they were tracked down and arrested as part of the police surveillance operation.

Winchester said he had only handed over cannabis and cocaine to Hearn when they met in Hastings that same day. The court was told he asked police to carry out a DNA test on evidence connected to the gun.

Winchester denies supplying the gun and ammunition.Ellis, Caswell, Kenny Kelly, Steven Kelly and Hearn deny two charges of conspiracy to murder. Ellis and Caswell deny various charges of supplying Class A drugs. The trial continues.