Devon

Devon cannabis factory found buried under barn

Exeter Crown Court Image copyright Google
Image caption Darren Palmer was found guilty of producing cannabis after a trial at Exeter Crown Court

A businessman ran an underground cannabis factory which was made of five interlocking shipping containers buried under a barn, a court has heard.

Daniel Palmer's DNA was found on items seized by police from the containers.

Palmer, 40, of Hooper Close in Hatherleigh, was found guilty of producing cannabis after a trial at Exeter Crown Court.

The entrance to the secret growing area was a trap door concealed by farm machinery and sacks of fertiliser.

The barn itself was in a remote part of the 200-acre Easter Hall Park at Petrockstowe, near Okehampton, Devon, where it was surrounded by woodland.

Police found more than a kilogram of skunk cannabis in large water butts inside the growing area, the court heard.

Prosecutor Lee Bremridge said: "It goes without saying that the excavation work to dig out and remove enough soil to sink five shipping containers and build a barn on top of them must have been huge.

"The value of what it could have produced would be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds."

Fake passport

Palmer, who owns a log cabin making business based on another part of farm, claimed items containing his DNA got into the underground chamber by being picked up by the growers who rented the land from his father set up the operation without his knowledge.

Police are still trying to trace the main grower who used a false identity in the name of Richard Jones to rent the land using a fake passport and driving licence.

His true name is thought to be Stephen Parker.

A second defendant, Daniel Moorcroft, 40, of Cudham Lane in Knockholt, Kent, was found not guilty of producing cannabis.

Palmer was granted bail until his sentencing in September.

Judge Paul Cook said: "You will appreciate these are serious matters because of the nature of the operation."

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