A TERRACED house in Carlisle which provoked neighbours to complain about its overpowering smell was a secret cannabis farm with a crop worth almost £350,000.

When police forced entry to the Howe Street property on January 26 they found a  "sophisticated" growing operation, with more than 200 plants being cultivated across three floors.

The entire "clandestine" operation was being powered by stolen electricity, Carlisle Crown Court heard. Police also found the operation’s manager, a 30-year-old former PE teacher from Albania.

A judge told Rushit Protoduari, who admitted producing the Class B drug over a period of months, that he will be deported following his jail term. An allegation that he illegally extracted electricity was not proceed with.

Prosecutor Gerard Rogerson outlined the facts.

“Neighbours had reported a strong smell of cannabis coming from the address, together with mechanical noises from within the house,” said Mr Rogerson. “Two police officers attended and forced entry."

Protoduari was in the hallway.

The defendant had various personal items, including an iPad, an iPhone, and a set of keys, as well as a wallet in which there were bank cards.

News and Star: A picture of the grow in the terraced houseA picture of the grow in the terraced house (Image: Cumbria Police)

When the police examined the property, which was a few metres away from a primary school, they found one of the downstairs room had been converted to function as living quarters but the rest of the house was devoted to cannabis growing.

Police said the property was “carefully staged” to look like an ordinary house but otherwise it had all the hallmarks of a commercial cannabis growing operation.

Mr Rogerson said: “The electricity supply had at some point been bypassed. There was living accommodation in the living room – a single bed, clothing, toiletries, food, a kettle, and sandwich maker and a TV.

"Throughout the house, water systems were installed. A ventilation system which ran the length of the stairs was installed,”

In notebooks, police found records of multiple cannabis crops, with dates and details of 12-week growing cycles. An area was given over to waste materials, while an extraction system had been set up in an attempt to mask the smell of the cannabis.

In one room alone, there were 20 heat lamps. In total, police found 207 plans across the three floors of the property.

“They had been grown with clear expertise,” said Mr Rogerson.

The cannabis seized would have yielded just under 35 kilos of the drug, worth just under £350,000, a police drugs expert later concluded.

The court heard that the defendant, who came to the UK illegally, had a previous conviction for possessing cannabis with intent to supply.

News and Star: Cannabis growing in the houseCannabis growing in the house (Image: Cumbria Police)

That conviction followed police stopping Protoduari as he drove through Lowestoft in September 2012. He had 2 kilos the cannabis in his car.

Mr Rogerson said police had found no evidence to suggest that the defendant had been under pressure to get involved in the cannabis operation.

Tariq Khawam, defending, said the defendant had “escaped the clutches” of the people had had arranged his illegal entry into the UK and involved him in that earlier offending.

“However, through social media, they were able to ascertain his whereabouts,” said the lawyer.

He agreed to work for the people smugglers for a year to clear the debt that he owed them.

Mr Khawham added: “He came to the UK because his mother was seriously ill.

"He was a PE teacher in his own country but because medication is so expensive there, he and his brother left Albania, with one going to the UK and the other to Germany to work in construction.”News and Star:

Judge Nicholas Barker told the defendant: “The property had been converted for commercial and sophisticated cannabis production. Your role was to manage the production of the cannabis in the property, to tend the plants and bring them to maturity.”

He jailed the defendant for two years, noting that Protoduari will be deported at some point after he has served half of that prison term. The plants and equipment seized will be destroyed.