RESIDENTS in a quiet suburban neighbourhood discovered they had a cannabis factory in their midst containing 609 plants after hearing a series of explosions.

Illegal immigrant That Hoang was then seen by a neighbour fleeing with a woman before pointing his fingers in a gun shape at the direction of a house in Warren Avenue, Shirley Warren, Southampton Crown Court heard.

It transpired Hoang, pictured right, thought the house where he was growing drugs was being attacked after hearing the seven loud bangs.

Prosecutor Matthew Lawson said: “He looked panicked and scared and carried on running.

“Police were called and when they arrived they went looking for two people. When they saw the defendant they called for him to stop and identify himself.

“But the defendant tried to run from them. He was eventually detained.”

When his home was examined on the same day, on June 18, it was found to contain a cannabis factory with plants in various stages of growth.

It is estimated the operation could have produced up to 51kg of the drug with a potential street value of nearly £500,000.

During interview, Hoang said he had travelled illegally to the UK from Vietnam and worked growing cannabis to pay off debts.

Hoang, 26, of no fixed address, admitted cannabis cultivation.

Barnaby Shaw, defending, said his client was working for organised criminals based in Vietnam but was low down the chain and was merely paying off money he owed.

He added: “He was fleeing the house as it appeared to be under attack. “ Sentencing Hoang to three years, Judge Gary Burrell said: “It would seem you travelled to the UK illegally and at some stage you agreed to farm cannabis for others.

“You say you had debts to pay but I am afraid that is no excuse.

“Your role is not easy to ascertain but the quantities of cannabis was significant and you must have some understanding of the operation.

“In addition you were motivated by financial reward.”