CRIMINALS have been dealt a blow in the war on drugs after police destroyed a cannabis farm worth more than £100,000.

Shortly before 2.30am on Saturday, October 24, police received a call of men acting suspiciously around a van in the Myrtle Street area of Ashington.

The men had been disturbed by the owner of the van before they threw a tool at him and made off in two cars.

Police attended the scene and their enquiries led them to an address in Laburnum Terrace where they uncovered a sophisticated cannabis operation.

The huge farm spread over a two bedroom flat and the property’s loft with the electricity having been dangerously by-passed inside the address.

The plants, thought to have a street value of around £100,000, were seized and have since been destroyed. Five people have since been arrested.

Inspector Phil Patterson, of the Ashington Neighbourhood Policing Team, has today called on residents to help police in the fight against organised crime.

He said: “This discovery of a large-scale criminal operation was possible because a member of the public noticed something suspicious and contacted police.

“They absolutely did the right thing – the public are our eyes and ears, and we have now dismantled this cannabis farm and taken action to prevent criminals from making any further financial gain from the set up.”

He added: “This isn’t a resident growing a couple of plants for personal use or for medicinal purposes. It’s a sophisticated operation that is linked to organised crime.

“This type of criminality inevitably leads to violence, anti-social behaviour and vulnerable people being caught up in a sophisticated criminal operation

“It’s therefore imperative that we find these illegal drugs, destroy them and ensure they are taken off the streets of Ashington.

“They are also potentially fatal for those who live in neighbouring properties. The electric had been bypassed at the address, which could have caused a fire with a devastating outcome.

“It’s a frightening thought that someone could be living next door to a potential death trap and that’s why we make no apology for our zero-tolerance stance on this kind of criminality.

“We would always encourage anybody who believes somebody is using a property for this purpose to contact police.”

On Saturday a man and a woman, both aged 35, were arrested on suspicion of the production of cannabis.

On Monday a further three men - aged 20, 24 and 29 - were subsequently arrested in connection with the investigation.

They have all been released under investigation while enquiries continue.