TWO illegal immigrants fled onto the roof when police called at the door of the house they were using as a cannabis farm, a court heard.

Albanian nationals Banush Jolla and Klemend Liko were tending the grow in the mid-terraced property in Station Town, near Wingate, County Durham, at the time of the raid, on August 19.

Durham Crown Court was told the pair smashed their way onto the roof of the house in Lakebank Terrace, and it took two hours to talk them down.

Jonathan Walker, prosecuting, said a search confirmed the rented property was being used for a large-scale commercial cultivation capable of providing wholesale quantities of cannabis.

A total of 157 clomed female plants were found, within three to five weeks of harvest, in three rooms and the loft space.

The electricity meter was tampered with to provide a free supply of electricity, while all the rooms used for growth were fitted with reflectors, high-powered lighting, fans and transformers.

Mr Walker told the court: “It was described as a commercial cultivation which would have taken considerable expertise to set up.

“It was the view of a police drug expert that this was not the first grow there, with the potential street value of the yield of between £22,000 and £67,500.”

Officers seized £1,780 found on Liko, which was considered to be the proceeds of the criminal activity.

Both were interviewed and Liko gave no replies, but Jolla indicated he was there, “under duress”.

Jolla, 22, of no fixed address, and 20-year-old Liko, of Weastell Street, Middlesbrough, both admitted producing a class B drug.

The court heard Jolla has a similar conviction in Leeds last year, for which he served a 12-month prison sentence.

Martin Scarborough, for Jolla, said he came to the UK to work to pay off debts accrued to study for a diploma in his home country and had only just been placed in the house in Wingate a few days earlier, with associated “intimidation and threats”.

Andrew Petterson, for Liko, who is of previous good character, said he was put there to play the role of “gardener”.

Judge James Admin jailed Liko for 14 months but passed a 22-month sentence on Jolla, due to his recent similar conviction.

The judge said both should be deported upon release at the mid-point, which he said should have happened in Jolla’s case after his release from his 2019 conviction, earlier this year.