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Mother ran a cannabis factory in Winklebury to repay debts
A DEBT-ridden mother was caught red-handed running a cannabis factory in Basingstoke.
Oang Vu was found at the house in Hastings Close, Winklebury, when detectives raided it on August 7. The entire upper floor of the house and the loft was being used to grow cannabis that was worth tens of thousands of pounds.
Winchester Crown Court heard that the 46-year-old Vu was deep in debt back in her homeland of Vietnam. She had come illegally to Britain in the back of a lorry in a bid to find work and pay off what her family owed.
Her defence barrister said Vu was afraid what might happen to her if she went back to Vietnam, where she has a husband and two children, aged 22 and nine.
The court heard how police discovered 300 cannabis plants and cultivation equipment at the house after a neighbour reported a strong and distinctive odour.
Prosecutor Dawn Hyland said Vu left her homeland two years ago to pay off debts and said she first got a job as a babysitter.
Vu claimed to have met a Vietnamese man while walking in the street, who said he could offer her a job. She followed him to an address, the man left and she found instructions informing her to water the plants every day in return for pay once they were harvested.
Miss Hyland said a neighbour told police he saw a woman move into the house in March or April, and also saw various people delivering filled Tesco bags and sometimes leaving with black refuse sacks.
When interviewed after the raid, Vu told police she slept in the lounge and that the plants had grown from one foot to three feet since she had been there.
Defending Vu, Caroline Bonavia said: “She has high debts in Vietnam which she wasn’t able to pay. She’s clearly frightened. She expresses all the regret one would imagine but her real fear is finding herself back in Vietnam.”
Vu pleaded guilty to producing a controlled drug of class B and was sentenced to eight months in prison.
Judge Keith Cutler told her: “You must be aware that there’s grave concern in this country over large cannabis-producing facilities, whereby houses are used to produce many, many cannabis plants. Nearly always the people who get caught are people in your position who are the ‘gardeners’ of these plants.”
He said he was sympathetic to Vu’s difficulties but told her it was important to send out the message that what she had done was a crime that would be met with imprisonment.