A FORMER soldier who witnessed the deaths of two colleagues in action in Afghanistan turned to drugs when he returned to Civvy Street, a court heard.

Stephen Joseph Arnold Patterson, 27, is facing a potential prison sentence when he returns to court to learn his fate next month.

It follows his guilty pleas to two counts of possessing a class A drug with intent to supply during a short hearing at Durham Crown Court.

The offences arise from police recoveries of cocaine and ecstasy from a car and the defendant’s home address, on Friday September 30, last year.

But, the prosecution does not intend to pursue a third charge, of possessing a quantity of the class B drug, cannabis, with intent to supply, which the defendant denied.

The court was told his admissions to the first two charges were on the basis he put forward in his police interview, that he was a drug user with debts and that he was supplying mainly only among friends as a means of paying off those outstanding amounts.

Text messages recovered from his phone were said to be indicative of someone dealing in drugs.

Chris Baker, prosecuting, said the Crown does not seek to dispute the basis put forward in interview.

Asked by Judge Christopher Prince about the purity levels of the recovered drugs, Mr Baker told the court that a police expert in the field considered them to be “very high”.

“The cocaine was said to be 87-per cent pure, compared to ‘street’ levels, of between 15 and 25-per cent.”

Mr Baker said the ecstasy, had a purity of between 87 and 90-per cent, which the expert believed was, “as high as it gets in crystalline form.”

Susan Hirst, mitigating, asked for preparation of psychiatric reports on the defendant, prior to sentence, having read character references presented to the court.

“He’s someone who was, effectively, of good previous character.

“But, it appears that on tours of duty in Afghanistan he lost two friends in separate incidents right in front of his eyes.

“It’s clear, when you actually ask him about it, he’s never had any counselling of any nature.

“This offending all happened in the relative proximity of him leaving the Army and turning to drugs.”

Judge Prince agreed to the adjournment, but told Miss Hirst: “He has to understand that he’s going to go to prison, it’s just a case of how long.”

He bailed the defendant, of Cragside, Chester-le-Street, until June 16, adding: “You have to expect to receive a custodial sentence, when you return here.”