The Bulls Head Holbeck: Enormous cannabis farm worth more than £270k discovered in derelict Leeds pub
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The Bulls Head, in St Matthew’s Street, has stood empty for years with smashed windows around the perimeter of the formerly popular boozer and metal sheets in place of its front door.
But earlier this year, it became home to two Albanian immigrants who used it as a base to tend to 504 cannabis plants estimated to be worth more than £270,000.
Bledi Allaraj, 21, and Ditmir Alijaj, 22, both of no fixed abode, were busted by police on August 31 in a raid on the pub where they had been living.
They initially tried to escape through a hole in the roof, but were arrested and later pleaded guilty to the production of cannabis. The pair were sentenced at Leeds Crown Court on November 17.
Prosecuting, Jennifer Gatland explained that the former pub looked like a building site and that the front door had been barricaded from the inside when police tried to enter.
When they eventually got in, they found a “large scale” farm with three grow rooms as well as Allaraj and Alijaj’s living quarters.
Officers also found a system had been set up using Ring Doorbell cameras taped to holes in doors to keep an eye out for potential intruders.
The defendants had an escape route prepared which they used during the raid, with a ladder up to the loft where a hole in the roof gave them access to the top of the building.
They were seen “frantically” using their phones, one of which was later found to have been subject to a factory reset. The other phone showed clips of the footage recorded using the Ring Doorbell system.
It was concluded that Allaraj and Alijaj were not victims of modern slavery as they were seemingly free to leave the building and there were videos of them “enjoying themselves” in other locations. It was also found that there was no evidence of them having tried to contact friends or relatives.
Judge Geoffrey Marson KC said: “This was a sophisticated and professional operation. It was designed to produce significant quantities of cannabis.”
He added: “Looking after this quantity of cannabis and the number of plants and the value of the crop without any significant direct supervision can’t be characterised as a limited function.”
The pair were each sentenced to three years’ imprisonment. It was explained that the overwhelming likelihood was that they would be deported to Albania on their release.