Burglars held Leeds tropical plant enthusiasts hostage after thinking they were growing cannabis

A Leeds couple faced the most terrifying ordeal of their lives when they were held hostage in their own home by sick thugs who mistakenly thought cannabis was being grown there.

By Richard Beecham
Thursday, 7th July 2022, 2:07 pm

​Christopher Honey and Shaun Fargher were given a combined prison sentence of almost 24 years for breaking into the house in Bramley before threatening to shoot the two occupants with an imitation gun.

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The couple had been growing tropical plants as a hobby and had nothing to do with cannabis growing, Leeds Crown Court heard.

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Cristopher Honey and Shaun Fargher were sentenced to lengthy prison sentences this week.

In a victim impact statement, the male resident wrote: "This has been the most traumatic thing that has ever happened to me. I had never been so afraid of losing someone I love - I had feelings of terror I have never had before.

"We had fears - what if they got out? Or what if their friends come to get us? We should not have to live like this. We feel genuinely trapped and I am not sure if it will ever get better again."

The court was told how the two defendants met at 34-year-old Honey's home in Wortley, before travelling to the house in Bramley on a stolen motorbike.

The two parked up and approached the house, having kept on their motorcycle helmets to disguise their identities. One was holding an imitation gun and another holding a large piece of wood or metal.

After hearing banging and kicking at the front door, the male resident went to see what was going on, assuming it was local children.

When the victim opened the door, the defendants ran towards him. Despite the resident's attempts to shut the door, one of them pushed the gun through the gap and pointed it at his face.

One of Honey or Fargher was then heard to shout, "let us in or we will shoot you".

The gun - which was still capable of firing rounds - was then shot into the air.

After entering the house, the defendants separated the two victims and repeatedly demanded to know where the cannabis grow was being kept.

They were told one did not exist and that they only grew tropical plants as a hobby.

While one of the defendants went to check, the other guarded the couple in the kitchen. He kept the gun pointed at the couple, threatening to shoot the woman in the shoulder if the man did not keep still.

The gun was then pointed between the eyes of the man, before one of the defendants punched him in the nose.

Having not found any cannabis or cash, Honey and Fargher took two laptops and two mobile phones. They also took a house key and locked the two inside, in an attempt to prevent them from calling for help.

After they had left, the male victim managed to escape from the house but broke his ankle doing so.

Police were called and were able to track one of the stolen mobile phones using a 'find my phone' app installed on the device. It took them to an address where the two defendants were trying to burn the handgun in a wheeled bin.

Upon being arrested, one of the defendants insisted he was having "a bonfire" with a friend.

The court heard impact statements from both of the victims, with the woman saying it was an experience she would not wish on anyone.

"I never feel safe," she said. "I can't trust other people. I have become a nervous person.

"They threatened to shoot me if they were not told what they wanted to hear. I felt like a pig waiting to be slaughtered."

Fargher, of Gaw Green Avenue, Wakefield, had pleaded not guilty to aggravated burglary and possession of an imitation firearm, but was convicted at trial.

The court also heard the 35-year-old had serious previous convictions, including offences when he had previously been out on licence.

Mitigating for Fargher, Sean Smith told the court his client had "very few opportunities" for work or education and had involved himself in groups where weapons were readily available.

Sentencing him, Recorder Giuliani said: "The same applies in your case but I also need to consider dangerousness provisions. You present such a risk.

"You have serious deficiencies in your thinking skills and you have a cavalier attitude to the consequences of your actions."

He sentenced Fargher to a 14-year prison sentence - with the earliest chance of parole after nine years - as well as a further five years on licence, meaning a total sentence of 19 years.

Honey had pleaded guilty to aggravated burglary and possession of an imitation firearm.

Mitigating, Derek Duffy told the court: "The first thing [he] wants to do is apologise to the victims. He has undertaken a restorative course in prison."

He added that in the 12 months before the offending, Honey had made steps to turn his life around.

Sentencing him to nine years and nine months in prison, Recorder Giuliani said: "I am sure this was a carefully planned and arranged burglary where you planned to steal cannabis and money through fear and intimidation, in the mistaken belief that it was a cannabis grow.

"The home you burgled was of a couple who had an interest in growing tropical plants. You burgled them despite the plants being visible from the street, you thought them to be cannabis plants."