Two men who grew half a million pounds worth of cannabis plants behind a secret trapdoor in a disused building in Leeds have been jailed for eight years.
Neighbourhood police officers sniffed out the illegal operation after suspicions were raised about a disused former engineering works in Town Street, Stanningley.
PC Chris Davey noticed a strong smell of cannabis and what appeared to be a brand new ventilation chimney on the roof of the building.
When the officers forced entry they found a large, dusty workshop area strewn with rubble and old furniture.
They noticed that the ventilation chimney had been bricked up and went straight down into the floor, raising suspicions that plants may be in the cellar.
They also noted that the floor was very warm despite there being no heating system.
There was no obvious access to any cellar but they then heard the sound of a large metal box being moved. The officers saw a man emerge from a hole in the floor along with a flood of light and a strong smell of cannabis.
The man disappeared back down the hole after being challenged by the officers.
They followed him through the secret trapdoor and down a ladder and discovered a four-room cellar filled with cannabis plants.
Robert Dibb and Wayne Ivory were found bare-chested in the cellar due to the heat from powerful lamps. Both men were arrested on suspicion of the production of cannabis.
Further examination of the scene showed the metal box had been placed over the disguised trapdoor to conceal the cellar below.
More than 600 cannabis plants were found growing along with a bin bag full of cannabis buds that had been harvested. The total value of the find was in excess of £500,000.
The pair were charged with producing more than 20 kilograms of cannabis and were found guilty after a trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Ivory, 42, of Hillside View, Stanningley, was sentenced to five years in prison and Dibb, 52, of Lakeside Chase, Rawdon, received a three year term.
Insp Simon Jessup, of the Armley, Bramley and Stanningley Neighbourhood Policing Team, said: “This was a highly sophisticated cannabis growing operation that the offenders went to great lengths to conceal within what at face value appeared to be a dusty old disused factory.
“PC Davey however wasn’t fooled and his suspicions led to the discovery of this cannabis farm and the downfall of the men running it.
“Neighbourhood officers like him spend a lot of time out in their communities and tend to notice when something isn’t right.
“Yet again a significant quantity of cannabis has been seized before it could enter the illegal drugs market that fuels crime and anti-social behaviour in our communities.
“I would encourage local residents to look out for suspicious activity in their areas that could indicate a property is being used to grow cannabis. If people notice an unusual smell, boarded-up windows, electrical equipment being delivered in significant quantities, or people coming and going at all hours, I would urge them to pass their suspicions on to us so we can check it out.”
Anyone with suspicions about a property on their street should contact their local neighbourhood policing team via 101 or call Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.