Police thought they were dealing with a burglary until they saw inside room

Aurel Dervishi
Aurel Dervishi -Credit:Merseyside Police

Two cannabis farmers spent hours hiding in a loft after the police discovered a £500,000 grow.

Officers initially believed they had interrupted a burglary in progress at the disused property before coming across the large scale drugs factory.

Liverpool Crown Court heard this afternoon, Monday, that Merseyside Police were "called to reports of suspicious circumstances" at a former doctor's surgery on Stanley Road in Bootle shortly after 6.30pm on February 14 this year. When the landlord was contacted, he confirmed that the premises "had been unoccupied for eight years" with "no one permitted to be inside".

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Lee Bonner, prosecuting, described how PCs attended the scene and found Dionis Margieka leaving the building. The 27-year-old "provided no reason for being inside" and was initially arrested on suspicion of burglary.

But the officers then discovered a large amount of cannabis plants in the address. Their searches continued into the following day, February 15, at which stage two further defendants - Aurel Dervishi and Aurel Dushku - were located inside the attic.

Aurel Dushku
Aurel Dushku -Credit:Merseyside Police

Overall, a total of 430 plants were found growing inside one room. The operation had also utilised 173 lighting units and 187 transformers across five rooms and had bypassed a meter to illegally use £68,000 of electricity.

The grow had an estimated yield of 12kg to 36kg, drugs with a potential value of between £48,160 and £541,800. The cannabis was said to have been "grown on a commercial basis for onward supply".

Under interview, Margieka stated that he had been present at the address for two weeks at the time and had "been allowed to stay for free" in return for adjusting equipment and watering the plants. Oliver Saddington, defending, told the court: "Prior to his involvement in this enterprise, he had been in the country for about a year.

"He came to the UK in the belief that better days lay ahead for him. He wanted to build a better life for himself.

"He was prepared to take the journey in the back of a lorry, facilitated by people traffickers. He wants to apologise, through me, for his offending."

Dionis Margieka
Dionis Margieka -Credit:Merseyside Police

Dushku - who has a previous conviction for drink driving in February 2023 - told detectives that he had been "offered work" at the property and had been present for two days, adding that he was aware of the grow but "did not have any involvement". Anna Duke said on the 29-year-old's behalf: "Initially he was here legally, but outstayed his welcome during covid then found it difficult to get back to Albania.

"Perhaps his biggest regret is that, since his incarceration in custody, he has been completely ostracised from his family back in Albania. Inevitably, he will probably be deported back to Albania in any event."

Dervishi meanwhile stated that he was homeless and had debts he was allowed to repay by watering plants and cleaning the premises. He said he had been in situ for seven days when he was arrested.

John Rowan, appearing for the 24-year-old, added: "He had a close and quite large family in Albanian who were struggling financially. He was the member of the family who was designated to travel to this country and try to earn a better living.

"He struggled to do so. He was here illegally and was unable to work legitimately.

"He became involved in this enterprise after a period of homelessness and was promised accommodation, food and money to send back to his family. Inevitably, he knows he will be deported in due course."

Aurel Dervishi
Aurel Dervishi -Credit:Merseyside Police

Dervishi, Dushku and Margieka - all of whom are of no fixed address - admitted production of cannabis. Appearing via video link to HMP Liverpool and assisted by an interpreter, they were jailed for 18 months each.

Sentencing, Judge Stuart Driver KC said: "You produced a significant quantity for commercial use. You understood the scale of the operation and must have expected significant financial advantage, but you each performed a limited function under direction."

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