POLICE have recovered cannabis worth at least £400,000 after finding a "tropical jungle".

Officers in east Durham made the discovery at Cold Hesledon Industrial Estate, near Murton, on Sunday.

On entering the two-storey Telmar E Ltd unit, they found hundreds of mature cannabis plants being cultivated in an artificial tropical climate.

The ground floor contained enough harvested plants to fill several sacks. The first floor was being used to cultivate plants with elaborate heating, lighting and humidity equipment.

Officers raided the unit after a tip-off led them to pursue a suspect red Transit van for several miles on the A19, at 10pm on Saturday.

After stopping it in Hartlepool and finding cannabis, they arrested the van's five occupants, all Hartlepool men in their 20s.

Several homes were searched and more than 50 immature plants, fertiliser and other growing materials, recovered.

The men were questioned at Peterlee police station and released on bail, to report back on March 3 following forensic tests.

Last night, the factory unit was sealed off as scenes of crime officers carried out examinations due to last for several days.

Detective Chief Inspector Brian Tait said that more than 450 mainly mature cannabis plants of the strong skunk variety had been recovered.

The latest discovery follows that of 40,000 Ecstasy tablets in a car stopped on the A19, near Peterlee, last Tuesday.