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Man who acted as gardener of Whitehaven cannabis farm is jailed

A DEBT-ridden Albanian who was put to work as the gardener of a sophisticated cannabis factory inside a semi-detached home on a Whitehaven housing estate has been jailed.

Police raided the two-storey address at Fell View Avenue in the Woodhouse area at 2-40pm on August 4 this year. Officers found a bed in the kitchen and large quantities of cannabis growing both in the living room and three bedrooms. There were ultraviolent lights and extractor fans in place, and windows were covered by thick blackout curtains and plastic sheeting to prevent heat escaping.

There was evidence of previous grows, neighbours described suspicious comings and goings at the property and an expert brought in by police noted the electrical supply had been tampered with and was in a dangerous condition.

Mobile phones and £300 cash were also recovered, along with an Albanian passport and driving licence in the name of 39-year-old Ervin Nurka, who was found at the house and arrested.

“This is a professional operation with apparent repeat harvests,” prosecutor Tim Evans told Carlisle Crown Court today (FRI).

A drugs expert concluded the yield of almost 100 cannabis plants recovered could potentially have been worth up to £77,000.

Nurka, of no fixed address, admitted producing the class B drug and was said to have been at the address since February and through lockdown. Although he initially claimed to have been a victim of modern slavery after entering the UK illegally at the start of 2020, he accepted acting as a gardener “with a degree of independence” who had owed a large debt to “unsavoury individuals”.

“You have accepted by your guilty plea that you were a willing participant in this enterprise,” said Recorder Katherine Pierpoint as she imposed an immediate 15-month prison sentence.

“Those who are involved in the commercial production of cannabis in this country are viewed seriously by these courts. Commercial production can only take place if people like you are willing to assist in the production.”

The judge added: “I do however have regard to the condition you were living in, compared to others who I imagine make a great deal of money out of this set-up.”

Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Lindsay Clark said: “This was a professional set-up in the middle of a residential area in Whitehaven.

“Our investigations stopped this commercial enterprise and we are pleased with the sentence handed out today.

“We hope anyone tempted to become involved in such a criminal enterprise takes note.

“Our investigations into drugs crime relies on intelligence and information and we would urge anyone who has seen or knows of anything suspicious to contact us.”

DC Clarke added: “We have officers and PCSOs out-and-about engaging with the community every day, but we also need you to tell us what is happening in your neighbourhoods.

“Please come forward with information – everything will be reviewed and acted upon accordingly.”

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