A Dartmoor businessman has been found guilty of cannabis production after a factory made out of five large interlocking shipping containers was found buried under a barn.
The barn in question is in a remote part of the 200-acre Easter Hall Park at Petrockstowe, near Okehampton where it was surrounded by woodland.
The DNA of Daniel Palmer, 40, of Hooper Close in Hatherleigh, was found on items seized by police from the containers.
In something out of a British Cinema classic, the entrance to the factory was concealed by farm machinery and sacks of fertiliser. Prosecutor Lee Bremridge said: “It goes without saying that the excavation work to dig out and remove enough soil to sink five shipping containers and build a barn on top of them must have been huge.
‘The value of what it could have produced would be in the hundreds of thousands of pounds.”
Most standard shipping containers tend to be 8ft wide and 8.5ft high, and come in two lengths – either 20ft or 40ft.
Mr Palmer is the owner of another business which makes log cabins. It is located in a separate area of the vast estate.
He claimed, during his trial at Exeter Crown Court, that the DNA the police found got into the underground chamber by being picked up by the growers who rented the land from his father and set up the operation without his knowledge.
The police are still in the process of identifying who they consider to be another grower on the site, and believe the man to have used a false identity in the name of Richard Jones to rent the land using a fake passport and driving licence.
His true name is thought to be Stephen Parker. A second defendant, Daniel Moorcroft, 40, of Cudham Lane in Knockholt, Kent, was found not guilty of producing cannabis.
Palmer was granted bail until his sentencing in September. Judge Paul Cook said: “You will appreciate these are serious matters because of the nature of the operation.”