A prolific Coventry crook who ran cannabis ‘farms’ at addresses across the city – and was producing drugs on an “industrial scale” – has been jailed for more than four years.
Nigel Barwell (pictured), from James Galloway Close in Binley, managed cannabis cultivation sites in at least five properties – all with extensive light, heat and ventilation set-ups – that had the potential to net him £400,000 a year.
Detectives raided an address in Laneside, Willenhall, on 26 February last year and found 40 mature plants in one bedroom.
Forensic examination of the flat’s electricity meter – which had been tampered with to abstract power for free – revealed Barwell’s fingerprints while his DNA was also recovered from a cigarette butt found in an ashtray.
A warrant executed in Craners Road on the same day revealed the remnants of a cannabis factory but more plants and growing kit were seized during further police checks in Shellon Close, Sunnybank Avenue, Rosemary Close and Hampshire Close.
Police had observed Barwell purchasing hydroponics equipment and more forensics checks on items found in the properties linked him to cannabis production.
The 29-year-old was arrested from prison in Worcestershire on April 10 – where he was on remand for dangerous driving and ramming several police cars during a pursuit – but refused to answer any questions in interview.
Detectives found photos saved on Barwell’s phone (pictured) showing rooms packed with cannabis plants and another of him posing with a large bundle of cash.
He went on to admit cultivating cannabis and at Birmingham Crown Court on 11 August was jailed for four years and six months.
Investigating officer, DC Rory Juss, said: “A drugs expert estimated Barwell could have made upwards of £400,000 a year from his network of cannabis factories…and there was evidence in the form of text messages to suggest he was looking to expand his operation.
“We found thousands of pounds worth of cannabis growing equipment in his garage in Sunnybank Avenue…he was growing cannabis on an industrial scale.
“Barwell is a career criminal, with a long history of offending, and there is little doubt that his drugs empire would be linked to wider criminality impacting on people across Coventry.
“I’m satisfied he’s been put behind bars for a lengthy period and he will be robustly managed by our offender management team upon his eventual release.”
Barwell’s jailing is the latest success for Operation Blue Steel – a concerted clampdown on organised crime and crime families operating in the city.
#OpBlueSteel sees police, the local authority, housing providers, DVLA, probation, the Dept for Work & Pensions and other organisations working together to disrupt gang members and, where possible, press criminal charges.
Two other people – Nicholas Jones and Kyle Burton – were also convicted of helping Barwell manage his drugs factories.
Jones (22) was arrested returning to his home in Hampshire Close, Binley, on March 17 while police were clearing up the remnants of a recently harvested cannabis crop found in a bedroom.
And 25-year-old Burton, from Chapel Farm Close in Willenhall, admitted acting in a crop maintenance role and was spotted by police spending up to an hour at the Shellon Close house farm on 11 March.
They were handed prison terms of three years and 11 months, respectively, for their roles in the cannabis cultivation conspiracy.
Source:: West Midlands Police News