Peter sits across the table at a greasy spoon in south east London as the sun beams through the window. His rucksack is full of police reports and health assessments from his troubled past.

Peter, whose name we are reporting differently to preserve his anonymity, is trying to live a quiet life on the coast in the south east of England after dipping in and out of crime for years.

He said he was forced to leave his flat in Lewisham in spring of this year after he became a victim of cuckooing – which saw his home turned into a cannabis farm against his will.

Cuckooing is a drug-related crime whereby drug dealers take over the home of a vulnerable person and use it to grow or store drugs. The name comes from the cuckoo bird, which steals other nests to lay its eggs.

According to the National Crime Agency, cuckooing is a method used in county lines drug operations.

The NCA's latest County Lines Intelligence Assessment says victims of cuckooing are often "of all ages."

Peter describes how he fell into the hands of a drug dealer after befriending him over a few joints.

“I used to smoke weed morning, noon and night. It helps with my depression and anxiety,” Peter explains.

The 45-year-old said he has suffered with mental health issues from a young age after being sexually abused by his dad when he was just eight years old.

Following the death of his mum, Peter was taken into foster care in the 1980s aged 12 and a half. When he was 18, he was left to fend for himself and said he fell into petty crime.

“You have ups and downs - obviously the worst part is the downs,” he explains.

Rolling up his sleeves to reveal scars on his arms, he adds: “I have tried to commit suicide a few times.”

Peter admits he was in a particularly vulnerable state when he let his new friend into his home for the first time last summer.

“To me, he didn’t seem threatening. He seemed friendly. And I was all on my own.”

But it wasn’t long before the dealer started bringing cannabis plants into Peter’s flat – and even forced him to change the locks so he could gain access.

“I felt threatened. When he was changing the locks, I said to him: ‘I don’t want to do this’.”

When the plants were first brought into Peter’s house, he went straight to the police to report the incident, but claims his pleas were not taken seriously.

Meanwhile the cannabis operation in his house was getting bigger. Peter said he was threatened with violence when he initially refused to drill holes in his walls.

“He kept saying he was a mad and crazy person. I think he was trying to big himself up so I’d be too scared to argue,” Peter told News Shopper.

After he was initially arrested earlier this year, Peter has been released and faces no further action. He has moved out of London and says he feels “so much better.”

No one else has been arrested in relation to the cannabis farm in Peter’s flat, but the Met Police has confirmed to News Shopper that “active enquiries are ongoing.”

When asked for advice on what to do if you are a victim of cuckooing, Scotland Yard did not comment.

According to the National Crime Agency, some of the key indicators of cuckooing in a house include seeing more cars outside, noticing the usual occupant of the property is becoming anxious and distressed, and seeing that occupant less often.

Reports of concerns of cuckooing can help authorities tackle the problem. If you think it could be happening in your community, you can call 101 or 999 in an emergency. Those who wish to remain anonymous can call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.