A 78-YEAR-OLD man has been jailed after admitting being the frontman for a huge cannabis farm which has left a family on the brink of ruin.
Clare and Gary Trotter were left almost £60,000 out of pocket after their seemingly harmless, 78-year-old tenant Robert Parkin turned out to be a frontman for the gang who converted their five-bedroomed farmhouse into a drugs factory.
After police raided the house and seized the illegal haul the Trotters found the gang had destroyed virtually everything inside.
Walls and ceilings were full of holes, a chimney breast had been damaged, there was growing equipment strewn throughout the house along with an overpowering smell and piles of rubbish and take-away cartons.
Even the fridge was packed full of food which had gone mouldy.
Parkin collapsed in the dock yesterday as he was led away to start a 12-month prison sentence and was taken from the court by an ambulance.
Mr and Mrs Trotter now fear they will lose the house at North Farm, Houghton-le-Spring, as well as a second property which was where they lived with their five-year-old daughter after they were forced to meet the cost of repairs themselves because their insurance claim was rejected as they had changed from private to landlord insurance too late.
Newcastle Crown Court heard the couple had rented the farmhouse to the pensioner, who had agreed to lease it on behalf of a Chinese criminal known only as Mr Lee.
Parkin, of Bamburgh Close, Washington, paid the £1,350 monthly rent in cash he received from the criminal gang. In return Mr Lee paid him cash for his involvement in the scam.
Parkin pleaded guilty to permitting premises to be used for the production of cannabis.