POLICE sniffed out a £600,000 cannabis farm when they followed their noses after coming across a suspicious smell in the street.
Two officers on the beat noticed a strong odour of the illegal drug coming from one of the houses as they walked along Chester Road in Sunderland on January 13.
Newcastle Crown Court heard when the curious cops approached the property, illegal Vietnamese immigrant Nam Nguyen ran out into the winter evening in just a t-shirt and shorts.
The 22-year-old Vietnamese national had been hired to work as a gardener to tend to the crops at the sophisticated operation running inside.
Prosecutor Paul Rowland told the court: “The officers were outside 155 Chester Road in Sunderland and they could smell what they knew to be cannabis which appeared to be emitting from that particular address.
“They found a cannabis farm growing on the ground floor and harvested plants were located in the loft space.
“In total there were 284 plants on the ground floor and the loft, which measured eight meters by 10 meters, was covered with harvested leaves.
“The value of the plants has been calculated to be in the region of £600,000.”
Judge Brian Forster jailed Nguyen, who admitted production of cannabis, for 16 months.
The judge told him: “You came from Vietnam to the UK in pursuit of a dream, you entered as an illegal immigrant, but your life was not as you expected.
“You fell into the hands of gangmasters and they recruited you to work in a cannabis farm.
“Your circumstances were such, in reality, you had little choice.
“This court has to deter people who run and work in such large scale operations.
“This was a sophisticated operation and the potential yield of cannabis was over half-a-million pounds.”
The judge said this was the third similar case to come before him in the space of three days and urged police to track down those behind the illegal operations.
Judge Forster said: “The court hopes that the police will concentrate their efforts on bringing the gangmasters before this court.”
Jamie Adams, defending, said Nguyen has had an unhappy time since leaving Vietnam and added: “All he wants is to go back home to be with his family.”