A STONE firm boss who ran a secret underground cannabis factory hidden in air-raid tunnels dating back to World War Two has been jailed.
Garry Hodgkinson, 55, allowed others to set up the sophisticated growing operation below his respectable stoneyard premises.
The facility was established at a time when Hodgkinson’s legitimate business, M&G Stone Ltd was suffering financially because of the recession and imports of cheaper foreign stone.
When police were tipped off and searched the premises, Hodgkinson (pictured above) immediately admitted his guilt and showed them the secret entrance concealed inside the company’s safe.
Officers discovered a sophisticated four-room production facility containing skunk cannabis plants with a street value of nearly £90,000.
Body-cam footage recorded by a police officer going down steps concealed by the safe at M&G Stone Ltd was shown in court.
Hodgkinson, of Keighley, West Yorkshire, was a man of ‘impeccable character’ who had been a pillar of the business community for decades, a court heard.
Through his stonemasons business, he was known to have given countless young people a head start in their careers and raised money for charities including Sue Ryder Care.
He admitted cannabis production and was jailed for two years at Bradford Crown Court.
Hodgkinson founded M&G Stone Supplies in 1990 and employed on average a dozen staff over that time. But in the last recession, the closure of a particular quarry he relied upon harmed his business due to his insistence on using only Yorkshire stone, not imported materials.
The court heard that Hodgkinson had then been approached by two men he called ‘Smith and Jones’ who wanted to use the air-raid shelters for cannabis production.
At first, Hodgkinson refused but he eventually agreed to go into business with them.
After falling out with his associates, he severed ties and continued growing the plants himself using the skills they had taught him.
Prosecutor Michael Smith said officers found 48 large cannabis plants being grown in two rooms together with equipment such as overhead lighting, floor fans and an air filtration system.
In another room, they discovered a vacuum-packing machine as well as nearly four kilograms of harvested and packed cannabis worth about £36,000 on the streets.
Judge Durham Hall accepted there was no evidence he sold the cannabis himself but told Hodgkinson: ‘Your family are here, and that must cause you great upset to know that you are being sentenced in public for something that is all your fault.
‘Intelligence led the police to M&G Stone Ltd in Keighley, your business of which you are justifiably proud. A very skilled stonemasonry business.
‘Well thought out: plants, notes, notebooks indicating what had to be done and when, seedlings, a separate fuse box system and certainly in three rooms highly material cannabis produce.
‘All your good works and endeavours had behind them this little secret operation.’