Pubdate: Thu, 29 Jan 2009
Source: Argus, The (UK)
Copyright: 2009 Newsquest Media Group
Author: Ruth Lumley
Bookmark: (Cannabis)


A businessman has called for more protection for landlords after one of
his properties was transformed into a massive cannabis farm.

Stephen Strafford was stunned to be told that his pristine four-bedroom
home had been left uninhabitable and with damage totalling UKP70,000.

He rented the property in Wilbury Crecsent, Hove, to a Chinese family two
months ago but returned from a skiing holiday on Monday to be told his
house had been used to cultivate 300 cannabis plants.

Mr Strafford, from Ditchling, was finally allowed into the house, to
assess the damage on Tuesday, but still does not know if his insurance
will cover the cost caused by the drugs factory.

He said: "I got back to a phone call on Monday morning to say there were
police and forensics there.

"I thought a couple of families had moved in but apparently there were two
girls in there who were looking after the plants."

The 47-year-old, who has owned the property for 25 years, said: "The
police took away 300 of these giant plants. There was infra-red lamps on
the ceiling and giant ducting everywhere which you would imagine on an

"They have drilled holes in the walls and ceilings and pulled the wiring
out and they also tapped into the electricity meter.

"A lot is done to make sure tenants are protected but I think more needs
to be done to protect landlords.

"We only refurbished the property two years ago. I used to live there with
my family a long time ago.

"It's not the sort of property you usually rent out but I have always kept
hold of it. It's going to take eight to 12 weeks to fix up.

"I am absolutely gutted, it's unbelievable. We try to make properties nice
for tenants and they get damaged.

The haul was brought to the police's attention after a disturbance at the
property at 12.40am on Monday.

A spokesman from Sussex Police confirmed that 300 cannabis plants were
found in a hydroponics room set up on the first floor. Officers have not
said how much the plants are worth, but a similar haul in Eastbourne was
found to have a street value of UKP31,000.

A woman was arrested on suspicion of cultivating cannabis on Monday and
bailed until next month.

Police are making more inquiries to establish if other people are involved.

Anyone with information should call Sussex Police on 0845 6070999, or
Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.
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