An illegal immigrant has been jailed for growing cannabis in a factory set-up, found when police raided flats in Rolle Street at the end of last month.

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A cannabis farmer has been jailed after his watering system overflowed and leaked through the floor into an Exmouth funeral parlour below.

Illegal immigrant Van Phan fled as police raided the large scale growing operation above the undertaker’s shop in Exmouth, Devon - he was found by police hiding in a child’s Wendy House.

Shocked staff at the Palmers Funeral Directors in Rolle Street, Exmouth, alerted police when slimy brown water started dripping through the roof from the rented flat above.

Police found hundreds of cannabis plants in six different rooms in three small flats which had been knocked together to create a larger growing space, Exeter Crown Court was told.

Phan is a Vietnamese who had been smuggled into Britain about four years ago and was hired to look after the Exmouth operation where he acted as gardener.

He had previously been caught running a similar set up in Stoke on Trent but on that occasion he was not sent to jail or deported.

A second Vietnamese man arrested with him has absconded and vanished after telling police he was aged only 16 and was put in insecure council care rather than remanded in a prison.

Phan, age 19, of Rolle Street, Exmouth, admitted production of cannabis and was jailed for 16 months by Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, who recommended his deportation.

Mr Gordon Richings, prosecuting, said: “Police found a cannabis factory after being called by a manager at Palmers Funeral Directors because a sludgy brown liquid was falling through the ceiling.

“On entering the premises it was clear that three flats had been converted for the use of cannabis growing and there was a strong smell.”

He said there were 304 plants on the first floor and another crop in three more rooms on the second floor and police had not been able to estimate a likely yield, which would have been very considerable.

He said nobody was in the house at the time but Phan was arrested five hours later when a family in Portland Avenue reported seeing something suspicious in their garden. He was found hiding in a pink Wendy house.

He told police he had come to Europe by ship and to Britain by truck and had been employed by a Vietnamese man he met in Exeter.

Mr James Calderbank, defending, said Phan had not been trafficked into Britain but was vulnerable to exploitation because he could not find normal work because he is an illegal immigrant who speaks no English.

He said he had come to Britain four years ago at the instigation of his parents who believed he would enjoy a better life in the West. He now wants to be deported so he can go home.

Judge Francis Gilbert, QC, told Phan: “You have been convicted of a similar offence in 2010. On this occasion I accept you were acting on instructions and doing what you were told.

“This was an operation spread over six rooms to grow cannabis on a commercial scale. There were at least 300 plants and the electricity had been by-passed.”

The judge issued a warrant for the 16-year-old after being told he absconded from council care within hours of being released from the police station and has not been seen since.

At the time of the police raid officers estimated there were 700 cannabis plants at the address which would have produced a crop worth tens of thousands of pounds.


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