A SHOCKED dad today told how police raided his home expecting to uncover a cannabis factory – after an old heating system alerted the force helicopter’s thermal image camera.
Officers swooped on Joe Long’s home in Bamburgh Close, Oxclose, Washington, after they were granted a search warrant by magistrates.
But the lorry driver was stunned to learn that the raid was launched after equipment on board a police helicopter picked up unusual temperatures.
Drugs farms often use high-powered lights which give off huge amounts of heat to aid the growth of the illegal crop.
However, instead of uncovering an cannabis operation, officers discovered a network of poorly insulated pipes – part of a 30-year-old communal heating system.
Mr Long, who was at work at the time of the raid, was furious when he returned home to find his front door damaged and a community support officer in his sitting room.
“When I was told by the police how they’d got the warrant, I knew pretty much straight away the heat source that the helicopter had picked up was actually the heating pipes,” he said.
“In this area, we have communal heating where hot water is pumped to our homes. The pipes run straight through my loft and, because the weather was so cold at the time, everybody had their heating on high.
“The police should have known about this. The system has been in place since the houses and flats were built in the late 1970s early 1980s.”
Mr Long, 50, said he and wife Coreen, 47, have been left shocked. “We have lived here since 1983 and there has never been any police interest,” he said.
“I have no previous convictions and have never had any involvement in drugs in any way.
“I have had no apology whatsoever for the embarrassment and stress that this incident has caused.”
The HGV driver said the damage caused to his home has also left him out of pocket. Police refused to pay for a new front door and his insurance company also would not accept a claim due to the way the damage was caused.
“In the end, I had to pay £500 for a new door,” he fumed, adding that a police officer had informed him that a helicopter had originally raised suspicion.
A spokeswoman for Northumbria Police confirmed officers executed a drugs warrant at the property on October 28, but the force did not accept liability for the damage.
“A claim has been received and refused,” she said. “We would not discuss the grounds on which a warrant was obtained.
“Police officers who entered the premises were acting under the authority of the warrant.
“As police officers entering the premises did so lawfully, Northumbria Police hold no liability for the damage.”