North West Wales

Four jailed over Bangor 'mushroom' cannabis factory

Four men have been jailed for what police described as a sophisticated commercial-scale production of cannabis in disused railway tunnels.

Officially the site at Bangor, Gwynedd, was being used to grow mushrooms.

Gerald Davies, 68, of Bangor, and Kenneth Vincent, 59, of Beaumaris, were jailed for three years and four months for conspiracy to supply cannabis.

They received a similar concurrent sentence for cannabis production. Two men from Merseyside were also jailed.

Philip Bigley, 23, and Christopher McIntyre, 31, were sentenced to 12 months after admitting production of cannabis.

Mold Crown Court heard the operation was capable of producing at least £1.5m worth of cannabis a year.

The men were caught as part of a police operation focusing on the production of high grade cannabis in the disused Faenol railway tunnels at Menai Business Park.

Police were tipped off and found hidden industrial-sized cannabis laboratories.

A trap door inside a cabin led down to five growing rooms, one which had cannabis with an estimated street value of £225,000.

The judge was given a virtual tour of the operation by video.

Mr Recorder Timothy Petts, sitting at Mold Crown Court, said it was "no small-scale set up" and it was clear that other people had also been involved.

Image caption Gerald Davies and Kenneth Vincent originally set up a legitimate business to grow mushrooms in the tunnels, the court was told

"This was a facility on any view capable of producing at least £1.5m worth of cannabis a year," he said.

Prosecutor Gareth Preston said that in 2009 or 2010 Davies, a local builder, had met a director of the Faenol Estate when the BBC hosted an event there.

A peppercorn rent was agreed for the use of the tunnels.

Davies and Vincent then set up what was described as a mushroom growing business.

Electrical work

The court heard that considerable construction work took place and large steel interior and exterior doors were fitted.

Ventilation, electrical work and even a sub-station were installed, all covered by CCTV.

The operation was found by police on 9 May this year and Davies was arrested.

Vincent was stopped by police on the A55. He had keys to the tunnel and a journal showing the progress of the work at the tunnels.

"The officer in the case described the set-up as one of the best he had encountered in 22 years of service as a drugs officer," said Mr Preston.

Image caption Philip Bigley and Christopher McIntyre worked as 'gardeners' in the tunnels.

"The simple fact is that this is one of the best designed and constructed commercial operations that North Wales Police have ever encountered."

Davies told police he had been approached to look after the place and had invested £400,000 savings into the venture.

Vincent said he was a self-employed commercial building designer, but was bankrupt.

He worked with Davies in the Menai Mushrooms operation and agreed he was involved in designing the operation.

McIntyre admitted he worked there to pay off a £3,000 debt. He would sleep on site and it was his job to ensure water butts were full.

Bigley, who the court heard had a long standing issue with cannabis, declined to comment but his DNA was found on a cigarette butt.

The defence stressed the mushroom operation had been a genuine business but Davies and Vincent had come under pressure by men from Liverpool who saw the tunnels as an ideal cannabis factory.