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Bailiffs May Have Blown Drugs Sting

The Herts Advertiser, 3rd March 2006

BAILIFFS called in to repossess a house on a quiet road in Bricket Wood may have inadvertently bungled a major police operation when they stumbled upon one of biggest cannabis factories ever discovered in Herts.

Hundreds of cannabis plants were discovered in the four-bedroom house in Oakridge, a suburban cul-de-sac, all at different stages of development and fitted with special lights and fans to create optimum growing conditions.

Following the discovery, worried next-door neighbours said that they had been told by the police, after they tipped them off in October last year, that officers could not raid the house because it was part of a wider investigation.

It was not until the bailiffs burst into the house last Wednesday morning that the true extent of the £30,000-a-month operation was discovered and the police were forced to take action prematurely.

The police said that it was usual for bailiffs to inform them before taking action but this had not happened. The said they were from the Royal Bank of Scotland but the bank this week denied responsibility.

The police had been alerted months ago by neighbours who had become suspicious about the blacked-out windows and the fluorescent glow coming from the bedrooms.

One home-owner on the street said: "You just think that something like that isn't going to happen here - it's a quiet road. We did notice that something was going on and we knew that the house was under surveillance."

She also described how the heat from the specialist lights used to cultivate the cannabis crop had made the house so hot that some of the bricks on the outside had started to turn white.

It came as a surprise to the neighbours to find out just how big the drugs-growing operation was. The entire house had been converted into a "hydroponics factory" with high-powered lights and fans hooked up to the mains electricity supply.

Six rooms had been turned into a domestic cannabis farm - each room was crammed full of plants at different stages of life. It was estimated that the there were more than 400 plants which at full maturity could provide a harvest worth £72,000 and which could be harvested every 13 weeks.

Ruth Stevenson, who lives next to the cul-de-sac's cannabis factory, said that she and her husband, Peter, had contacted the police after they returned from holiday in October. She said: "We just decided that we had to do something about it so we spoke to the police. They came straight round and asked us to start logging any strange activity and gave us a number to call if anything happened."

Ruth had been told by police that they had to wait because there were other investigations going.

A 39-year-old Vietnamese man has been changed in connection with the cannabis farm and was due to appear in court yesterday (Wednesday).

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