Officers swoop on suspected cannabis factory and only find guinea pigs

Embarrassed police have issued an apology to a mum after officers swooped on her house thinking she had turned it into a cannabis factory and found an electric heater for her two guinea pigs.

A swarm of six officers, in three vehicles, rushed to Pam Hardcastle's home and the 42-year-old was shocked to receive a call from her mother telling her the police were asking her to return from work.

The officers had been alerted when a police helicopter picked up a hotspot on the roof of Pam's garage and assumed it was a drug's den, when in fact it was a cosy home for her loveable pets.

Pam, a primary school learning mentor, was forced to return home to Bradford after officers from West Yorkshire Police obtained a search

warrant and mounted a raid when they thought they had uncovered a specialist heating system designed to grow cannabis.

She explained: "The officer said they wanted me to go home. He said my garage lit up when the police helicopter was out and they believed I could be growing cannabis. He said they had a warrant and they wanted to search my premises.

"It was unbelievable. My mum told them I had guinea pigs in the garage and would have a heater in there to keep them warm. But they cut a bolt off my neighbour's gate to gain entry.

"My neighbours told me police were everywhere. Everybody was asking what I had done wrong. It is embarrassing."

The two guinea pigs, Simon and Kenny, belonging to Pam's 10-year-old son Jack, had lived in her garage for three months and she had put the heater inside because she was concerned they would get cold.

She said: "I have no criminal record. I haven't even got an unpaid bill. I told the police I was squeaky clean and they said they knew, but they wanted to look in the garage.

"When I opened it up and they saw the guinea pigs, they didn't say anything.

They were in the garage two seconds and they left. People are now wondering

what I've been up to, it's like I've been branded a drug dealer.

"I have contacted a solicitor because I am concerned I might now have a

criminal record. I am worried that this would come up on a CIB check if I went for another job. People think there's no smoke without fire."

Neighbourhood Policing Team Inspector Darren Brown said: "The majority of operations of this nature are intelligence-based and often rely upon swift action.

"Due to the location of the garage, we could not make further observations without alerting the occupants. On this occasion, it transpired that the significant heat source coming from the property was not connected to the production of cannabis.

"Officers who attended explained the full circumstances to the occupant and discussed any damage. I would like to apologise for the distress this may have caused. However, I would point out that these tactics are essential in tackling drugs across the district.

"I can also reassure the occupants that their details will not be kept on police records and I will be personally visiting them to discuss any concerns they may have."

Pam said that a police inspector had now visited her to issue an apology in person and the police had bought a new lock for the neighbour's gate.

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