A DEVASTATED couple have had to put their five-bedroom home up for sale after a pensioner tenant helped turn it into a cannabis farm.
Clare and Gary Trotter were left almost £60,000 out of pocket after Robert Parkin, 78, turned out to be a front man for a gang who converted their farmhouse into a drugs factory.
Now the OAP is starting a 12-month prison sentence, after pleading guilty at Newcastle Crown Court to permitting premises to be used for the production of cannabis.
The Trotters, who have a five-year-old daughter, have been left on the verge of losing everything after Chinese cannabis farmers moved in and wrecked their home in Newbottle.
After police raided the house at North Farm and seized the illegal haul, the owners discovered walls and ceilings were full of holes, a chimney breast had been damaged, growing equipment was strewn throughout the house, and there was an overpowering smell and piles of rubbish.
Even the fridge was packed full of food which had gone mouldy.
Mr and Mrs Trotter have now been forced to put the picturesque farmhouse up for sale and fear they may have to declare themselves bankrupt, after their insurance claim was rejected and they had to pay for repairs.
Parkin, of Bamburgh Close, Oxclose, Washington, collapsed in the dock after being sentenced yesterday, and was taken from the court by an ambulance.
The court heard the couple had rented the farmhouse to Parkin, who leased it on behalf of a Chinese criminal known only as Mr Lee, who has not been traced.
In a statement read out in court, Mr Trotter, 36, said: “This has had a catastrophic effect on my family.
“The cost of putting right the damage was between £36,000 and £38,000 and the rental income lost was £16,000.”
After the hearing, the self-employed businessman added: “We went through £500 of Wickes paint, which might not sound like a lot, but can you imagine how long it takes to apply that?
“We’ve had help from friends and family to get it back to what it was, but it is never the same - you can still smell it.”
Mrs Trotter, 33, who has a degenerative spine condition, underwent major surgery while Parkin was living in their home and is due to have a further operation.
She said: “You would never expect it from a 78-year-old man.
“He used to come and pay the rent and have a cup of tea and a slice of cake.”
The court heard Parkin got involved with the gang after he met Mr Lee at a casino while he was on a losing streak, and was offered the chance to make money by renting a property on his behalf.
Bob Spragg, mitigating, said Parkin, who had been out of trouble for over 12 years, had refused requests by Mr Lee to rent out more properties and to deliver food to the illegal workers inside his existing farms.