NEWS

2012-01-26

Cannabis factory

A HUGE cannabis farm has been found in the middle of Birmingham's bustling theatre district - just yards from one of Europe's biggest shopping centres.

Sandwiched between the UK's oldest cinema and a historic theatre, the professional cannabis factory - which could be worth up to half a million pounds - was discovered by police at a Chinese takeaway in the city centre on Tuesday evening.  

 

Cops discovered over 600 plants when they raided the Fu Moon Chinese takeaway - after receiving a series of community tip offs.

  

The unused business premises sits between the historic 378-seat Old Rep Theatre, which was built in 1913, and the Electric Cinema - which showed its first film in 1909, making it Britain's oldest cinema. New Street Train station and the city's famous Bull Ring shopping centre sit just yards away from where the raid took place.

After smashing their way through the heavily barricaded back entrance, cops were stunned to find a fully functional cannabis factory in the second and third floor of the skeleton building.

The professional set up consisted of a series of small rooms on the second floor where the young sapling plants were grown, before being transferred to the huge main room on the third floor - where hundreds of mature plants were carefully prepared for drying.

There was also a separate harvesting room where mature plants could be seen hanging to dry - with police saying it was ready and waiting to go onto the city streets.

Speaking at the scene on the morning after the bust (WED), Inspector Andy Bridgewater, of West Midlands Police, confirmed his team were hard on the heels of the cannabis factory's owners after finding personal items like laptops at the scene.

"It was one of four warrants we executed yesterday, this is the biggest hoard but there was cannabis at all of them," said the 38-year-old, who has been the city centre Inspector for two years.

"There was no-one here, but we've got good forensics from here and we are confident that we will make an arrest.

"It's a very professional set up, it's got all the stages of production. It's a big building and you can see from room to room that there's different levels of maturity. 

"There's divides been put in the rooms, it's like a factory."

Cops at the scene have said the find is at worth least GBP400,000 and admitted they were stunned to find such a large cannabis factory in the middle of the UK's second largest city.

"They are not very common in the city centre," added Inspector Bridgewater.

"Too many people pass through, you wouldn't want to draw attention yourself.

"If you're in a city centre then you're going to have more people passing by. It's near businesses and development so it's a shock."

Cops were also surprised about the location of the well-organised cannabis farm, situated in the heart of Birmingham's busy theatre district.

The Electric Theatre, which is directly next door to where the drugs were discovered, is a well-known landmark and was even used by US popstar Katy Perry for her 27th birthday party when she was in the city on tour during last October.

And Inspector Bridgewater said experts at the scene thought the farm had been there for anyway between one and two years.

"They've been here for at least six months. Judging by the structure, it's took months to put that together.

"There's at least six months of the cycle process present now but that doesn't mean it's only been here six months.

"Because they are trying to grow it quickly, it would need someone there daily."