POLICE seized more than 1,000 cannabis plants when they made a morning raid on a house in a quiet cul-de-sac, a court heard.

Four Vietnamese nationals had paid letting agents with hard cash when they initially rented the house for a six-month period in May of last year and then extended the agreement by a further three months.

In October, officers discovered that the property in Lime Gardens, Hedge End, had been converted into a major cannabis factory.

Four rooms and a garage were crammed with plants in various stages of growth. One room in particular was filled with 169 plants as well as propagators containing more than 550 cuttings and seedlings.

Prosecutor Louise Gray told Southampton Crown Court that the yield would have exceeded 14kg, with a potential profit of £85,000.

A silver Vauxhall had been seen parked in the driveway on earlier occasions, and officers stopped the vehicle on the day of the raid after it had mounted the pavement in the road.

The driver, illegal immigrant Tien Nguyen, was arrested and keys to the property were found in the front seat compartment. Traces of cannabis were recovered from his clothing.

The 46-year-old denied living at the address or owning the vehicle but admitted in his basis of plea that he had visited the property on three occasions to take fruit and flowers to a Buddhist shrine inside, when he also tidied up the place and sprayed the plants with water.

He denied being the gardener or taking part in the house's conversion.

Nguyen, of no fixed abode, admitted producing cannabis and was jailed for two years.

Recorder Stephen Lennard told him: "Whatever your role, it is clear this operation was a substantial one."