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VIDEO: Police raid £4 million Dartford cannabis factory in abandoned building
POLICE have uncovered one of Kent’s largest ever cannabis factories in an abandoned Dartford office block right by the town centre.
Between 5,000 and 6,000 plants worth between £2million and £4 million are now being recovered from St Lawrence House in West Hill after a tip-off.
Officers moved in during the early hours of Bank Holiday Monday after a witness spotted someone climbing in through a second floor window of the former Kent County Council-run building.
Once inside, they found room after room packed with plants across the first and second floors with extensive lighting and ventilation apparatus to support the massive operation.
Police move in to begin the massive clean-up operation.
Sergeant Ruth Colquhoun joined Kent Police colleagues at 12.30pm today to begin clearing the site – a mission which could take several days.
The police search advisor said: "We have found lots and lots of cannabis plants so far and all the things you would expect from any sort of agricultural growing project.
"My job is to make sure we systematically and safely search this entire premises for any evidential finds of any significant type at all."
When asked whether such a large find so near a town centre was unusual, SGT Colquhoun said: "In my experience it is very unusual.
Just one of two rooms piled high with used soil.
"It will take several days to clear this building and make sure it’s safe and we’ve uncovered all the evidence we need to and then there will be without a shadow of a doubt a longer investigative period looking at who’s behind the whole process which will go on and on.
"I’m very happy to assist in dismantling an operation like this."
St Lawrence House was formerly run by KCC until 2010 and used to house social services, the probation service and a number of other companies.
Two growing rooms on the first floor of floor of St Lawrence House.
It is not yet clear who owns the three storey block opposite a bus stop, but for perhaps more than a year it has been the home of cultivators whose living quarters appear to have been left almost entirely as they were before police moved in.
As well as a number of mattresses on the floor there were rooms piled high with left over soil, empty soil bags and containers of chemicals required to cultivate cannabis on an industrial scale.
A room just for younger plants.
Kent Police Chief Constable Ian Learmonth said: "This is a major drugs supply operation and while we don’t yet know whether these drugs were to be used on Kent streets or further afield, stripping down an operation of this size will undoubtedly make a big impact on the county’s drug network.
"Keeping these drugs off our streets and out of the hands of dealers and vulnerable persons shows drugs will not be tolerated in Kent."
No arrests have yet been made in the investigation.
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