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Skunk factory discovered in Ashford

A cannabis plant found in Rochester
A cannabis plant found in Rochester

Police discovered a “sophisticated and significant” cannabis factory hidden behind bales of hay in a barn in an isolated part of Ashford, a court heard.

More than 280 plants of the potent variety known as skunk were being grown in the outbuilding at Bridge Farmhouse in Church Road, Warehorne.

Prosecutor Simon Taylor told Maidstone Crown Court that two-thirds of the barn had been sectioned off to grow the drug. It had then been hidden behind a partition wall concealed by numerous bales of hay.

“When a bale or two was removed, a tunnel became apparent leading to a door into the factory,” he explained. “It was fitted with lighting, ventilation and 283 plants which were one to eight weeks old. It had the potential to produce multi kilos of strong skunk cannabis.”

The factory was also fitted with foil-lined walls and ceiling, power transformers, an air-conditioning unit and incubators for baby plants.

Power was fed to the barn by cables connected to the farmhouse’s electricity supply.

At the time it was being rented at a cost of £1,300 a month by 50-year-old Herbert Dundas. He paid more than £10,000 in rent and deposit up front by way of a banker’s draft to secure the property in August 2009, despite living on what was described as a modest annual income of £12-16,000 a year.

Dundas, who likes to be known as Samuel, lived at the picturesque, five-bedroomed, detached farmhouse full-time, but initially claimed following his arrest that he had no knowledge of the drugs being grown or the power being diverted from the property to the barn.

He later told police he was being paid £150 a month to store fake Armani T-shirts in the barn, but then discovered the plants a few weeks before the raid and planned to burn them.

Dundas denies producing cannabis between August 2009 and June last year and abstracting electricity.

A distant relative, Gavin Lutchman, 34, of Woodford Place, Wembley, Middlesex, was staying at the property at the time of the police raid. He denies the same charges.

But the prosecutor said a third man, Thomas Fenton, has admitted being a “gardener” for the factory and pleaded guilty.

The jury was told that the plants found during the raid may not have been the factory’s first crop.

The trial continues.

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