Three men convicted after police raid £721,000 cannabis factory near Bexhill

More than 600 plants were discovered in four huge polytunnels. Pictures: CPS
More than 600 plants were discovered in four huge polytunnels. Pictures: CPS

Police discovered cannabis worth up to £721,000 and an elaborate drugs factory when they raided a farmhouse near Bexhill.

When police broke into Longdown Farm in Hooe they discovered that almost all of two-storey house had been converted for drug production.

Keith Fieldwick was convicted of producing a controlled drug

Keith Fieldwick was convicted of producing a controlled drug

PICTURES: Pictures reveal hidden £720,000 cannabis factory near Bexhill

More than 600 cannabis plants were found growing in four huge polytunnels in the grounds, Lewes Crown Court heard this week.

Three men found inside the Mill Lane property have now been convicted of cannabis production and could face up to 14 years in prison.

Keith Fieldwick, 54, of Denbigh Road in Hooe, and Thomas O’Brien, 56, of Shrub Lane in Burwash were each found guilty of producing a controlled drug today after a trial. Michael Hill, 74, of High Street in Burwash pleaded guilty to the same charge before the trial began.

Thomas O'Brien was convicted alongside Fieldwick

Thomas O'Brien was convicted alongside Fieldwick

Opening the case, prosecutor Gareth Burrows said the men were caught ‘red handed’ surrounded by cannabis plants and leaves when police raided the farm back on October 3, 2014.

The court heard that when officers arrived they found the site blocked by 10-12ft high gates. However they managed to kick their way through a fencing panel.

Mr Burrows continued: “Officers made their way along the path to the house and they entered through the door shouting police as they entered.

“Inside were three males: Keith Fieldwick, Michael Hill and Thomas O’Brien.

The street value of the drugs could have been up to 721,000

The street value of the drugs could have been up to 721,000

“Within the kitchen there were two large piles of what appeared to be freshly cut cannabis and the room was littered with cannabis stems, leaf and bud.”

Officers then proceeded to search the house and found more evidence of cannabis production throughout.

Mr Burrows said: “There were five bedrooms in total and of those, four of them were being used to dry the cannabis out.

“In similar fashion two of the bathrooms had been used to dry out cannabis.”

But it wasn’t until officers searched the grounds that the full scale of the operation was revealed. Outside were four large polytunnels and the remains of the fifth.

Up to 161 feet in length and 12 feet high, all four polytunnels were filled with evidence of cannabis production and large numbers of cannabis plants.

A total of 601 cannabis plants were found in the tunnels, the court heard. The prosecution said that if allowed to fully grow the estimated street value would be between £240,000 and £721,200.

When questioned, Fieldwick said that he had not been living at the farm and had only discovered the previous day. He claimed that his tenant, a Daniel Barford, had been living there for several months. He said that O’Brien had introduced him to Barford.

However while council tax and water records indicate that a Daniel Barford was living at the address, police were unable to track down anyone by that name.

Thomas O’Brien told police that he went to the farm the day before with Fieldwick and was shocked to discover cannabis everywhere.

He said that they decided to build a fire and proceeded to do so, the court heard. He denied any knowledge of a Daniel Barford.