Hereford & Worcester

Drakelow Tunnels cannabis farm man jailed

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Media captionThe BBC was given access to the old nuclear bunker days before police discovered the cannabis factory

The caretaker of a former nuclear bunker has been jailed for allowing more than 800 cannabis plants to be grown there.

A total of 885 plants with an estimated street value of £78,000 were found in Drakelow Tunnels, in Worcestershire, in November 2013.

Wayne Robinson, 48, of Marlpool Lane, Kidderminster was convicted after a retrial at Worcester Crown Court.

He was jailed for 14 months for allowing the drug to be grown.

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Robinson, who calls himself Sid, previously admitted possession of a firearm without a certificate or licence, and possession of ammunition, and was given nine and six months jail to run concurrently.

He had always denied his involvement, saying he had rented the tunnels out for £200 a month and did not know what was going on inside.

The court heard it was a "highly sophisticated" and "remarkable" operation.

Judge Abbas Mithani QC told him if the cannabis factory had not come to the attention of the police, it would have become a substantial new supply chain.

In December, another man was jailed for two-and-a-half years after assisting Robinson.

Jason Whiley, from Brierley Hill, West Midlands, had been found guilty of assisting in the production of cannabis, after a trial at Hereford Crown Court in October.

Just days before Robinson was arrested, he gave the BBC a tour of the bunker.

Image caption Wayne Robinson was jailed for 14 months after being found guilty of allowing cannabis to be grown in the tunnels

Originally built as a factory for making aircraft engine parts in World War Two, the Drakelow Tunnels were lined up as a possible base for regional government in the event of a nuclear attack in the UK.

The 285,000 sq ft network of tunnels stretches for about three miles.

The tunnels were also used by the Ministry of Supply throughout the 1950s for storage, and much of the original equipment is still in place.

BBC reporter Jerry Chester's tour of Drakelow Tunnels

I had known about Drakelow Tunnels, first built as an underground factory in World War Two, and later converted into a nuclear bunker, since my days as a radio reporter, but I had never been able to arrange a trip inside.

So the announcement of plans to set up a museum and visitor centre there was the motive behind my visit to the vast underground complex.

After many calls I met caretaker Sid at the giant metal door to the tunnels. For a while it looked as if the trip would be in vain, as the generators that power the lighting refused to start, but finally they stuttered into life, bathing the miles of tunnels in a neon light.

For an hour Sid gave me a guided tour, looking at and photographing the abandoned kitchens, hospital, radio room and dormitories. I recorded the tour and used the photos to put together an audio slideshow telling the history of the complex.

The day it was due to be published we heard news of the arrests.

Only then did I realise I'd been just yards away from a huge cannabis farm.

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