Police have found over £500,000 of drugs in an extensive network of underground bunkers after a warrant was executed at a farm in Lincolnshire.
The search team spent nine days digging their way into the vast underground spaces which had been used by a criminal network to hide drugs, weapons and even animals.
On the morning of Thursday, 3rd September officers from Lincolnshire Polices’ drone and dog support units arrived at the farm in Skendleby near the east coast.
The officers were accompanied by officials from the Environment Agency who had intelligence to suggest waste was being stored illegally at the large site.
Officers from the Spanish Civil Guard also joined the operation having provided vital information which supported intelligence obtained by Lincolnshire Police, that a massive drug operation was taking place at the remote location.
Officers found four large bunkers which were made up of shipping containers which had been dug 20ft underground. The entrances to the underground network were concealed within adjacent barns.
In total, 12 shipping containers were used to make up the bunkers and house a large number of cannabis plants. Officers estimate the drugs would have a street value of approximately £580,000.
More than 300 tonnes of illegal waste, a shotgun and six stolen cars were also found at the location. Twenty-two horses and one llama were also found in poor condition and were taken away by officers.
Three men, aged 34, 35 and 28 were arrested on suspicion of production of a Class B drug, burglary with intent to steal, animal welfare offences and possible waste offences.
The 34-year-old was also arrested on suspicion of possession of a prohibited firearm and theft of a motor vehicle.
They have been released on bail while the investigation continues.
Detective Superintendent Rick Hatton from Lincolnshire Police said:
“We are extremely grateful to our counterparts in Spain and our partners for assisting with the exploration of this site.
“With the operation being underground we have needed some real specialist support to uncover this activity.
“Only with the skills of those who joined us from Lincolnshire Fire and Rescue, the Environment Agency, East Lindsey District Council, RSPCA, Dyno-Rod and the Home Office’s Defence Science and Technology Laboratory have we been able to get to this point.”
The seven Environment Agency officers attending found approximately 300 tonnes of baled waste, 60 part-dismantled vehicles, used asbestos roofing materials, household rubbish and mixed manufactured wood, plus evidence of 6 separate areas used to burn waste illegally.
Any site which deposits, treats, stores or disposes of waste is breaking the law if they do so without a permit from the Environment Agency.
The three suspects were also interviewed in relation to this activity before being released on police bail. Investigations continue, and officers will return to monitor the safe removal of the waste in the future – which is expected to cost those responsible up to £100,000.
Environment Agency Area Director Norman Robinson said:
“Waste crime is serious – it blights communities and risks real harm to people’s health and the environment, and we won’t hesitate to take action against those responsible.
“We’ve now been able to put a stop to illegal activity on this site – a testament to the determination, joint-working and intelligence-sharing between multiple organisations.
“Investigations continue, but in the meantime, we’d ask anyone who suspects illegal waste activity to report it to our hotline on 0800 80 70 60 or anonymously to Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.”
Marc Jones, Police and Crime Commissioner for Lincolnshire, said:
“An incredible piece of work by the Lincs Police team. A range of illegal activities tackled and a superb result. Organised criminals often use rurality to aid their activities.
“We need these challenges reflected in the funding we receive to keep communities safe”.
Image credit: Lincolnshire Police.