IT may look like the entrance to any old cellar, but this trapdoor concealed a hidden underground bunker that was used as a sophisticated cannabis farm. Police found more than 260 cannabis plants in three rooms after opening the hatch at a farm near Llanfair Caereinion, in Powys Wales. The cannabis factory, fed by an elaborate hydroponics system, was capable of producing four crops a year worth an estimated £173,000. Officers’ suspicions had been raised after they smelt a strong odour when they arrived at the site. Nicola Jennifer Bond, a 49-year-old widow, returned home to the farm at Hendre, Dolanog near Welshpool, police officers were still at the scene – and she had a key to the hidden trap door. She admitted producing skunk cannabis and abstracting more than £4,300 worth of electricity and was jailed for 16 months. The court heard how the sophisticated, underground cannabis farm had been the brainchild of her husband who died in 2010. But she continued with it in order to pay off debts. Judge Peter Heywood, sitting at Mold Crown Court, said that the starting point for such offences was four years imprisonment. ‘This was a significant and sophisticated operation for commercial gain,’ he said. But he took into account her guilty plea, the fact that she was a woman of good character, that she had not been the prime mover behind the factory and that she had created a new life for herself since the raid on her home in January, .
The court heard how she had a new partner in Oswestry and was effectively acting as the mother for his two children. John Hedgecoe, defending, said that exceptionally he would ask for a suspended sentence. She had been married for many years to David Bond, who he described as a particularly difficult and controlling character. He had a background of serious and extremely violent crime before she met him and he had served two sentences for armed robbery. The late Mr Bond had served sentences in Dartmoor and Parkhurst, had been held in high security wings in Hill and Durham and had the distinction of being the youngest prisoner to escape from Parkhurst. He had been controlling towards her but not violent, the court head. Before he died the couple had debts of £60,000 and her husband had decided that the cannabis was one way of paying that debt off. She continued with the plan after his death but he had not explained to her how to sell the product. Mr Hedgecoe said that it was a very unusual case in his experience. He had never come across a case where a specially created cannabis factory had been built from scratch. Judge Heywood said that if her husband had put her under duress there was no reason to continue with the plan when he died. ‘She made a deliberate decision to continue in a significant way,’ he said. Prosecuting barrister Simon Parry told how police could smell cannabis as they approached the barn. Inside the underground bunker were plants at different stages of growth. The lighting and watering was all automated and the air extraction system disposed of the air at some 15 feet above ground level in a bid to evade detection. Interviewed, Bond told how she had grown some cannabis for her own personal use and, after her husband’s death in 2010, she continued with the growing operation underground.
via : UK Daily Mail
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