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London police appealing for information after deadly cannabis factory fire

Jan 10, 2022 | Media Partners, The GrowthOp

This post is presented by our media partner The Growth Op
View the original article here.

A man was trapped inside the locked garage when a fire broke out.

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Police in London, U.K. are urging anyone with information related to a fatal fire involving an illegal cannabis grow in late December to get in touch.


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Firefighters called police to the scene of the fire at a lock-up garage being used as a cannabis factory at about 4:10 on Dec. 31 notes the Metropolitan Police. A lock-up garage is one “located in a separate area from residential buildings, especially one that may be rented,” according to Lexico.

A 35-year-old man found at the grow-op, an Albanian national with no known address in the U.K., was taken to hospital but died two days later on Jan. 2.

  1. The magistrate’s Dec. 8 order allows the West Midlands Police “to arrest people who go into the house” until Mar. 7, 2022. / PHOTO BY GETTY IMAGES/ISTOCKPHOTO

    Unauthorized people not allowed in or out of former U.K. cannabis factory

  2. Police believe the grow may have links to organized crime and involve trafficked individuals. /

    Million-dollar cannabis grow discovered in former working men’s club

  3. A video screen capture of an aerial view of fire scene. /

    Two men die after apparent hemp extraction fire and blast

Detective Chief Inspector Mark Rogers notes in the statement that the man “tragically lost his life having been trapped inside the locked garage,” when the fire broke out.


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“This is now a manslaughter investigation and, although officers have spoken with a number of local people, I want to hear from members of the public who were in the area on New Year’s Eve or who have seen people coming and going from the garage,” Rogers said in his appeal for more information.

Beyond witnesses, he also called on “those who choose to ignore the many and obvious issues caused by their own use of illegal drugs to reflect on [the man’s] death. It is well-known that this trade ruins the lives of almost everybody associated with it, and that fact is all too clearly demonstrated here.”

On the same day of the fire, a 33-year-old man was arrested on suspicion of false imprisonment and cannabis cultivation but was later released under investigation. On Jan. 7, detectives with Metropolitan Police’s Specialist Crime Unit arrested a 26-year-old man on suspicion of manslaughter, false imprisonment and cannabis cultivation. He remains in police custody.


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A U.K. study released in the summer of 2020 explored whether or not police identify victims of modern slavery among growers arrested on cannabis farms.

“Given reluctance or inability to frame the police response to cannabis farms under modern anti-slavery legislation, policing agencies should consider adopting more detailed practice guidelines to officers on how to react to the complex challenges involved,” study authors urged.

/ Photo: Gleti / iStock / Getty Images Plus
Last fall, three men were arrested after police busted a large cannabis farm. / Photo by Gleti / iStock / Getty Images Plus

“Migrants end up serving years in U.K. prisons despite being forced to commit the cultivation crimes by gangs who seize passports and threaten — and administer — violence,” states a research note from the University of Cambridge.

Although the study specifically considered Vietnamese nationals arrested for cannabis cultivation offences in Surrey/Sussex over three years until 2017, more and more reports are surfacing regarding Albanian nationals being implicated (either as forced labour or individuals running the weed farms) in cannabis-related arrests and charges in the U.K. over the last year.


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Last September, three men were arrested after police busted a large cannabis farm with almost 3,000 plants inside a 50,000 sq. ft. industrial unit in Lincolnshire.

Last June in Coventry, three foreign nationals were sentenced to jail in connection with the discovery of a £1 million ($1.7 million) cannabis grow-op at the former Big Bamboo Nightclub less than a year earlier.

That same month, a 38-year-old Albanian immigrant was deported after being found tending more than 700 weed plants as part of a sophisticated operation at a former Sikh temple in Bradford. Reported to have entered the U.K. illegally, the man told police he had been working to pay off a debt.

FILE: Officers discovered approximately 1,500 cannabis plants, estimated to be worth $1.7 million, spread across the three floors of the abandoned nightclub. /
FILE: Officers discovered approximately 1,500 cannabis plants, estimated to be worth $1.7 million, spread across the three floors of the abandoned nightclub. / Photo by National Crime Agency

NI Direct reports that it’s illegal to have, own, supply, make, import or export drugs into the U.K., including cannabis. Supplying or producing cannabis can spark a maximum fine of 14 years in prison, an unlimited fine or both.


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With regard to manslaughter, per Lawtons Solicitors, “while the maximum sentence of life for manslaughter is unusual, prison sentences of up to 10 years are common.”

Police have long cited that illegal cannabis grows as posing fire hazards to both the operation itself and neighbouring buildings.

In June 2020, Zurich Insurance cited statistics from the Home Office in the U.K. that indicated over a third of a million cannabis plants were seized in 2018.

“As cultivation increases, so does the number of fires related to illegal factories or farms,” the information notes. “Many of these fires are in residential premises, posing a serious threat to those living nearby, but fires in cannabis factories in commercial premises are also becoming more prevalent.”

The London Fire Brigade and the Specialist Crime detectives are continuing their investigations into the recent deadly fire.


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