Police mistakes 99-year old-Liverpool great great grandmother's house for drug den

Credit: Liverpool Echo

Police targeted the home of a vulnerable 99-year-old great great grandmother after ‘intelligence’ led them to fear she was living in a cannabis den.

Merseyside Police searched her home over concerns it had been taken over by a drugs gang after analysis of how warm her home, in Speke, Liverpool, was.

The force said extensive efforts were made to be as sensitive as possible.

But the grandmother's family have questioned how much due diligence was carried out and revealed they thought she had died when remote cameras alerted them to emergency services attending the property.

Police officers, firefighters and social workers were present as a warrant was executed in Speke on Friday, 4 February.

Kath Greatbanks said she became aware of the incident at the home of her mum, Peggy, who suffers from Alzheimer’s, almost immediately through cameras installed after she had suffered a number of falls.

Credit: Liverpool ECHO

The 61-year-old, from Widnes, said: “The alert went off and there were police there. My brother was panicking and we all thought it was mum."

Relatives said they were told a heat signal had been picked up highlighting the house as unusually hot - suggesting it could have been the location of a cannabis farm.

They said they were also told that gangs were known to ‘cuckoo’ properties in the area - where they take over the homes of vulnerable people and use them to store or sell drugs.

Kath says Peggy, who she did not want to identify further because of her vulnerability, was nearly 100 and her home fell under scrutiny during winter, when the heating was on full power to keep her warm.

While she appreciated the fears over cuckooing, she said she could not understand why more research was not done before placing her mum under such stress.

The distress was compounded by the incident happening on the day of the funeral of one of Peggy’s sons.

Credit: liverpool echo

A Merseyside Police spokeswoman said the operation was based on legitimate concerns for Peggy’s welfare.

She said: “We understand the family’s concerns, but would like to stress that we did have a genuine worry for the lady as we believed she could potentially have been a victim of cuckooing.

“Due to the age of the lady, and her potential vulnerability, we acknowledged we needed to take a sensitive approach, following receipt of information that there could have been a cannabis farm at the property.

“Extensive enquiries were carried out before visiting the house, and plans put in place to minimise disruption to the lady and her family.

“Contact was made with social services and together we arranged to go and check on the welfare of the occupant of that house, due to the potential dangers involved.

“Three officers attended, supported by social services and Merseyside Fire and Rescue Service, and access was gained to the property without the use of force, using a key code.

“The officers explained why we were there before sensitively carrying out a cursory search. No damage was caused during the search.

“Whilst our officers were there, family attended and advised that the lady was mourning her son and was due to attend his funeral later that day.

“Officers were able to leave safe in the knowledge that the lady was not subject to cuckooing and was not being exploited.

“We have apologised to the family for the timing of our visit, and explained our reasons for it, but I hope people will understand that her safety was our priority from the beginning.

“It is our duty to act on the intelligence we receive to ensure that the most vulnerable people in our community are kept safe from harm.

“We are aware of instances in the Speke area where the homes of vulnerable people have been used for ‘cuckooing’ – where gangs take over to use them for drugs or for the storage of weapons or stolen goods, and it was our belief that this could have been the case with the lady concerned.”