POLICE discovered a cannabis factory after fire broke out in a rural home. The discovery was made when Hampshire and Rescue Service was called out to deal with a blaze engulfing a bungalow.

More than 25 firefighters battled in vain to save the detached property.

With the fire becoming ever more intense, six firefighters had to wear breathing apparatus and used three jets and two high-pressure hoses.

The blaze could have been even fiercer but the fire crews stopped the inferno from reaching a domestic oil tank about ten yards from the bungalow. They also stopped the flames reaching a car left in the garage.

Daily Echo: The burnt-out bungalow at Shootash.

Then one of the fire officers near the fire had to be taken to hospital after he was thought to be suffering a medical reaction while dealing with the intense fire which broke out on May 19 last year.

Prosecutor Sadie Rizzo told Southampton Crown Court that Hampshire Fire and Rescue became concerned about the cause of the blaze and asked police to help with their investigation.

Examining the premises in Danes Road, Shootash, Romsey, they found two rooms had been used for the growing of cannabis plants.

Only one plant had survived the blaze at the house which had been rented out to Richard Barnes, who was nowhere to be seen after the fire broke out in the home which stands amid dense woodland.

But the set-up suggested other plants had been grown, the court heard.

Police arrested 34-year-old Barnes but he gave them a ‘no comment’ interview.

Daily Echo:

Barnes, now living at Coniston Road, Southampton, pleaded guilty to producing the drug.

Without hearing mitigation from defence barrister James Newton-Price, Judge Peter Ralls QC followed the recommendation of the probation report and gave him an eight-month sentence with an order to carry out 200 hours’ community service.

Daily Echo:

The judge said he had been growing cannabis principally for himself but giving some to others: “This was not, however, a commercial operation.”

Barnes was of previous good character.

The property was owned by Thomas McNamara, of Chilworth, who is the owner of McNamara Contractors, which has its yard next to the bungalow, off Danes Road. At the time he spoke of his shock at the fire after turning up to the scene to see the charred ruin.

However, Mr McNamara has no connection at all to the cannabis growing operation there and had rented the property out.