Homeless immigrant jailed after cannabis factory discovery

Police have released pictures which show a massive cannabis factory in a former vehicle workshop in Bideford.

The 214 plants were found in three rooms hidden behind panelling and accessible only by a ladder from the flat above the workshops. More than 60 high wattage lights were installed alongside an enhanced electrical system and fans. The cannabis had a potential street value of up to £180,000.

Officers uncovered the operation which was run by an Albanian gang who had installed a homeless illegal immigrant to mind the plants.

Durim Salliu came to Britain from Albania hidden inside a lorry but found himself penniless and homeless and fell prey to a criminal gang who offered him work, food, money and housing.

He was taken to the industrial unit at Nuttaberry Yard, East-the-Water, provided with a large box of food, and ordered to feed and water the plants.

He had been living alone in an upstairs flat for three weeks when police raided the workshops.

Exeter Crown Court heard that the roller doors had been sealed shut and the only way into the three growing rooms was down a ladder from the flat.

Salliu had been told he would be paid £1,000 plus £500 expenses but received nothing.

Mr James Rickard, defending, said Salliu came from law-abiding family and had never been in trouble before he came to Britain as an illegal immigrant. He was exploited because he was naive and desperate for food, shelter, work and money.

Salliu admitted cannabis production and was jailed for nine months earlier this week. The judge said he would be deported to Albania either during or after his sentence.

One of the rooms used to grow cannabis at a former car workshop in Bideford. Credit: Ted Davenport