Page last updated at 10:07 GMT, Sunday, 30 March 2008 11:07 UK

Underground drugs factory found

Underground container at the site
Eight large cargo containers were found buried at the site

A massive underground drugs factory, where hundreds of cannabis plants were nurtured, has been found by police.

Eight shipping container units had been buried to contruct a labyrinth of plant-growing chambers.

The whole complex had then been covered by a layer of earth several feet thick - with just one container and a caravan left above ground in the Sussex field.

Police uncovered the site, which contained 300 plants, after a fire in the caravan at Goddards Green.

Officers are now guarding the site, which was connected to an electric generator.

This is clearly the undertaking of more than one person
Sussex Police

It is believed the drug gang scrambled down into the underground complex through a hatch cut in the bottom of the container unit which was in a field.

Once down below, the plants were cultivated using artificial lighting and the gang members could move between the container units, which were inter-connected by ladders and hatches.

A spokesman for Sussex Police said the site appeared to have been "deliberately designed" for producing illegal drugs.

He said the operation to move and bury the cargo containers - and to arrange a large generator providing heat and light - would have been a "significant undertaking".

Cabling was found connecting the generator with the underground units at the site on land close to Leigh Water Mill Farm on Cuckfield Road, between Ansty and Hickstead.

Ladder leading from the overground container to a buried unit
A ladder led from the overground unit to an underground container

The spokesman said: "This is clearly the undertaking of more than one person and would have taken a period of time and numerous resources to construct."

Forensic examination of the site is still under way and a "high volume" of specialist fire and police officers have been involved in making the site safe, he added.

He said there have been two suspected arson incidents at the site in the past month, and work is under way to find if they are linked to the factory.

No-one has been arrested, but police are hoping witnesses who may have seen unusual activity will come forward.

Officers also want to speak to professionals who may have been involved in the supply of materials unknowingly.

Cylinder alert in caravan blaze
24 Mar 08 |  Sussex

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