Maldon: Cannabis factory smashed

ONE of the largest ever cannabis factories in Essex has been uncovered by police after they were given a tip off.

Officers carried out a search warrant at an old print works in Heybridge, near Maldon, where they uncovered a massive “sophisticated” commercial growing operation on the premises.

Six men were arrested on suspicion of cultivation at the factory in Hall Road and have been questioned by detectives.

The whole of the building had been set up for cannabis cultivation and Essex Police yesterday admitted they had been surprised at the size of the set-up inside the building.

More than 8,000 highly potent “skunk” cannabis plants were found, with a street value of more than �2million.

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Senior officers have hailed the success of the operation which they hope will have a major impact on the supply of the drugs across the country.

It is thought the factory, which cost about �500,000 to establish, had been operational since June with batches of cannabis already cropped and sent out.

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Police opened up the factory yesterday to members of the media to see first-hand what had been taking place in the building.

Row upon row of cannabis plants were lined up as far as the eye could see, all of them underneath brightly glowing lights to ensure successful growth.

Hundreds of bags of compost were stacked up, along with plastic plant pots, ready for the cultivation of more cannabis whilst a ventilation system had been put in place to make sure that the smell from the plants was directed to the back of the building.

Maldon Inspector Nigel Cockrell said the plants were at different stages of growth.

He said: “We have smashed a major gang who were making large amounts of money and have also successfully taken a large amount of illegal drugs off the street.

“It was a sophisticated operation – we believe that they have been here since June – it would have been an awful lot of work just to build what they have got here.

“There are over 1,000 lights, each with its own transformer.

“This was an organised gang so the drugs could have ended up anywhere in the country.”

Dozens of large wooden pallets were stacked up next to a large rubbish pile of old plant pots and empty chemical drums.

Insp. Cockrell added: “Everybody was amazed to be honest with what we found.

“You go in thinking that there will be something but the scale of it did take everybody by surprise.

“We have taken a huge quantity of drugs off the street and we have interrupted their business.”

The warrant was executed at about 9pm on Tuesday with the force’s helicopter keeping watch overhead whilst a dog unit was also brought along on the operation.

Two men, from south Essex, have been granted police bail and four more men, all of Vietnamese origin, are facing court appearances after being charged with drug cultivation.

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