Belfast Telegraph

Police fill five skips with plants after £500k drugs bust

By Chris Kilpatrick and Claire Williamson

A huge drugs haul recovered from a makeshift factory in the heart of a residential area filled five skips and was powered by street lighting.

More than 400 cannabis plants were seized after a raid on two houses which had been knocked through into one property to accomodate the illicit operation.

Police were called after residents complained of a strange odour in the Village area of south Belfast.

It is understood the drugs had a street value of up to £500,000.

Landlords have been urged to be wary of rented properties being used to manufacture drugs.

The house was located near two primary schools and close to the Windsor Women's Centre.

An 18-year-old local resident said he would see people coming and going from the house late at night and early in the morning.

"They would come in late at night carrying bags in and out.

"The lights were on 24/7 and there was condensation on the window. I smelt a weird, disgusting, pungent smell coming down from the house."

He added: "About a week-and-a-half ago they had their windows spray painted with 'scum out', but no damage was done."

A 47-year-old male resident described a "sewer" type smell when he was near the house.

He said: "It was horrible. I am not surprised because there are drugs everywhere. Thank God they didn't come anywhere near my house or family."

An elderly female resident who has lived in the area all her life couldn't believe what was going on just around the corner.

Paula Bradshaw, an Alliance councillor and director of the Greater Village Regeneration Trust, said the factory was extremely sophisticated.

She said those responsible were using electricity from the mains, having tapped into cabling for street lighting in the area.

"We're delighted police have dismantled this drugs factory," she added.

A PUP member praised the vigilance of those living in the area for uncovering the factory.

But he was critical of the police response, saying numerous calls were made before officers responded.

"Whilst we welcome the police operation we must ask why relevant authorities have ignored residents' complaints for some time about the smell of 'grass' in the area," said Ewan Suttie.

The huge drugs haul was recovered on Sunday. As yet police have made no arrests.

Police said private landlords should check their properties regularly.

"The PSNI would wish to take this opportunity to remind private landlords to make thorough checks of their property on a regular basis," a spokesman said.

"In the past, investigations have shown that many of the properties used as factories for cannabis cultivation are in the private rental sector across Northern Ireland."

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