Shady secret of ordinary-looking home

From the outside it looked like a quiet village home. But inside it harboured a large-scale sophisticated cannabis factory. Neighbours last night spoke of their shock after police discovered hundreds of cannabis plants in a three-bedroom home in Duffield Crescent, Lyng.

From the outside it looked like a quiet village home.

But inside it harboured a large-scale sophisticated cannabis factory.

Neighbours last night spoke of their shock after police discovered hundreds of cannabis plants in a three-bedroom home in Duffield Crescent, Lyng.

Some had been suspicious for months because the property's curtains were always closed and they could hear fans whirring in the early hours. On Wednesday, two of them told police their concerns.

Yesterday morning, a plain-clothed intelligence unit visited the address but a man believed to be involved in the drug factory escaped by running into nearby fields. Despite an extensive search involving a police helicopter and a police dog the man, believed to be Vietnamese, aged in his 40s and about 5ft 5ins, has not been caught.

Inside the rented property police found four rooms crammed full of 4ft-high plants - more than 200 in total - and another nursery room full of 200 seedlings. Each room had been specially adapted with hydroponic and lighting equip-ment to help the plants grow. The cannabis growers had created a special ventilation system and tapped into the electricity supply and had been bypassing the meter to fuel their operation.

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It is believed the plants were grown on a 13-week cycle - with each cycle creating £90,000-worth of cannabis. The operation was believed to have had an annual turnover of £360,000 and could have been running for about a year.

Karen Etheridge, 23, who lives nearby, said: "It is a shock. We live in a quiet area and you don't think things like this happen on your doorstep. We just thought he worked away. He comes back about once a month - normally with about four or five people and they take boxes into the house. He has a girlfriend and a little boy who is about one or two."

Retired builder and grandfather-of-four Colin Green, 67, said: "Most people seem amazed but some people have been suspicious for months."

One of the people who contacted the police, and who did not want to be named, said: "I am glad we reported our suspicions because we don't want this on our doorstep. We were shocked when we found out what was going on."

Sgt Colin Barratt, based at Dereham police station, described the discovery as a "significant find".

He said: "Every room in this house has been turned into a production area. There has been a forensic examination and we've found personal items at the prop-erty which will help inform the investigation. The cannabis plants will be removed and destroyed."

Police have been trying to contact the owner of the rented property but he is believed to be on holiday at the moment.

Det Chief Insp Neil Firm warned the public to contact the police if they had any suspicions about a property being used to produce drugs.

Signs that could indicate a cannabis-growing operation include: curtains always closed, a lot of noise when someone moves into a property but afterwards no one seems to be living there, strange smells, excess heat and condensation on the windows.

Anybody who suspects illegal drugs activity should call Norfolk police on 0845 456 4567 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.

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