A CANNABIS farmer’s desperate escape attempt when police came calling ended with him breaking his heel.

Police armed with a search warrant knocked at the front door of a property in Brandon, at 11.30am, on March 4.

Durham Crown Court was told sole occupant Ergest Barjami fled from the back door, but was arrested by officers deployed to the rear of Frederick Street North, after he landed badly, having attempted to jump over a wall.

John Crawford, prosecuting, said a search of the house uncovered three areas of cannabis cultivation, with use of lighting, grow bags, extractor fans and timers, costing an estimated £6,500.

Sixty-one mature plants were found in the two upstairs bedrooms, while a further 61 younger plants were growing in the loft space.

The electric meter was also bypassed to provide the operation with free power supply.

Mr Crawford said the potential values, with a successful yield, would have been between £21,700 to £102,000, depending on whether sold in bulk, or for street sales.

Officers also seized £600 in cash and a phone containing an e-mail link to Barjami.

The 24-year-old defendant, who was assisted by an Albanian interpreter, admitted producing a class B drug and abstracting electricity.

Vic Laffey, in mitigation, conceded the defendant is in the country illegally, having accrued a hefty debt in coming to the UK, all in the hope of finding, “worthwhile employment” to enable him to send money back to his family in Albania, including his seriously ill mother.

“He became more desperate and was given an opportunity, which he took.

“He has made little or no money and has certainly not had the chance to send any money home.

“He now finds himself in custody, still owing a significant amount of money to those he borrowed from.

“He’s spending up to 23-hours a day in his cell, in constant discomfort due to his broken heel.”

Imposing an 18-month prison sentence, Judge Ray Singh told Barjami: “Unfortunately, you are one of a number of individuals who have come to this country illegally and behaved illegally.

“The potential return from this operation would have been in excess of £100,000.”

Judge Singh said gardeners in such situations play, “a crucial role” in the cultivation process.

He told Berjami upon his release on licence half-way through the sentence, “you will be deported back to your country of origin.”