A POLICE officer on night patrol discovered thousands pounds worth of cannabis dumped on a County Durham roadside.

Sharp-eyed Sergeant Dave Smith was driving along the A68, near Witton-le-Wear, when his headlights lit up a collection of cases and bags beneath a road sign.

The bags seemed to have been abandoned, but as he pulled over, he heard sounds suggesting someone was running away through the trees.

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Sgt Smith, an officer with the combined Cleveland and Durham specialist operations unit, investigated the bags and discovered they were filled with cannabis.

Chief Inspector Alison Jackson, head of the specialist operations unit, praised the patrolling officer’s powers of observation.

She said: “This was an excellent observation by Dave and it demonstrates the crime-fighting work our roads policing officers do on a regular basis.

“His quick thinking has helped prevent a large amount of cannabis making its way into the community, which would no doubt have generated extra profits for organised criminals.”

Sgt Smith made the discovery early last Thursday (June 5) morning when he was heading south on the A68 in towards Toft Hill.

As he passed the large road sign advertising the turn off to Hamsterley, he noticed a number of cases, bags and bin liners underneath the sign.

As he got out of his vehicle, Sgt Smith heard the snapping of branches in the undergrowth and nearby woodland as if someone was walking or running through the area.

Despite the best efforts of the dog section and the air support unit, no trace was found of anyone in the area.

However, when he examined the bags and cases he found most of them were packed with cropped and harvested cannabis leaves, potentially worth thousands of pounds.

The most recognisable items containing the drugs were a large, red Billabong sports holdall with white handles, as well as a large black suitcase.

Two refuse sacks contained transformers, wire and lamp kits which police believe have been used in the cultivation of the Class B drug.

So far no arrests have been made in relation to the find and police are appealing for information, especially in relation to whoever might have used or carried the distinctive holdall.

Any information can be reported to Durham Police on 101.