Police seize 600 cannabis plants

STEPHEN PULLINGER More than 600 cannabis plants have been seized in a police raid on a sophisticated drugs factory operating less than 100m away from Yarmouth's busy Haven Bridge.

STEPHEN PULLINGER

More than 600 cannabis plants have been seized in a police raid on a sophisticated drugs factory operating less than 100m away from Yarmouth's busy Haven Bridge.

The plants, identified as skunk, the most potent and dangerous form of cannabis, have an estimated street value of £60,000.

Their seizure represents the biggest by Norfolk Police since the launch of Operation Atone, a countywide crackdown on cannabis factories launched last month.

About a dozen officers from Yarmouth police's tactical unit used a battering ram to break into the back of the premises on the bridge approach at 1.30pm on Wednesday.

Det Insp Jez Fry said: “The premises include a flat over a shop with a concealed room used for growing cannabis, and a courtyard out the back with outhouses also converted into a drugs factory.”

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He described it as a serious moneymaking enterprise using a watering system, artificial lights, and a ventilation system designed to reduce suspicious smells.

Officers had found a complicated “rabbit's warren” with step ladders and trap doors leading from one part of the factory to the other.

The tallest plants discovered had been waist high, but they were at various stages of growth to allow continual harvesting.

Police and forensic experts were still at the property on Thursday transferring the plants into dozens of bags.

Empty grow bags full of compost remained as evidence of the activities that had not been suspected by neighbours.

Heather Websdale, owner of the neighbouring shop, Jennifer's Celebration Cakes, said: “We have never smelled anything at all although we have all the smells from the cakes here.”

As well as the plants, police also took away a powdered substance believed to be cocaine.

Following the raid, two Yarmouth men, aged 54 and 53, were arrested on suspicion of conspiracy to produce cannabis. The 53-year-old was also arrested on suspicion of supplying a class A drug.

One was still being questioned on Thursday while the other had been remanded on police bail pending further inquiries.

It is thought the factory must have been operating a considerable time.

Det Insp Fry would not say how long surveillance had been carried out or how the factory had been discovered.

The raid was carried out on the same day as one in Blundeston, near Lowestoft, when 20 cannabis plants were seized.

Police forces across Britain have been targeting cannabis factories - especially those used to produce skunk - under Operation Keymer.

Skunk has far higher quantities of the chemical THC than “herbal” or “resin”, making skunk users considerably more vulnerable to the drug's negative effects.