House sitter a crucial cog in drug operation

Kate FieldingSouth Western Times
Police clear out the cannabis plants found inside the Millbridge home last year.
Camera IconPolice clear out the cannabis plants found inside the Millbridge home last year. Credit: Kate Fielding / South Western Times

Adrian Heaney’s job was simple – make a Millbridge home, in which every room bar one was converted into a hydroponic cannabis set up, look lived in.

The 65-year-old former Bunbury car salesman fulfilled his job for at least six months by keeping the Duncan Loop property’s front garden neat, playing with pet dogs outside and sometimes staying overnight.

Heaney was working on a car at the front of the home when police stormed the property on June 20 last year.

Police discovered about 150 plants and more than 6kg of cannabis material with an estimated street value of nearly $50,000.

Police clear out the cannabis plants found inside the Millbridge home last year.
Camera IconPolice clear out the cannabis plants found inside the Millbridge home last year. Credit: Kate Fielding / South Western Times

Electricity to the home was being diverted and police also found drying racks, watering systems and garbage bags full of cannabis clippings and offcuts with the set up described as a “sophisticated, large scale criminal enterprise”.

Police believe the house had been operating for two years with a potential harvest every four to six weeks.

After being arrested and charged by police with cultivating and possessing cannabis with intent to sell or supply, Heaney refused to provide any further evidence to help police and in particular who was described as “Mr Big”.

Those details were revealed when Heaney was sentenced in Perth District Court on Wednesday.

Inside the Millbridge home.
Camera IconInside the Millbridge home. Credit: Supplied / WA Police

Defence lawyer Helen Prince said the turn of events that led to Heaney being the caretaker of the property was a “tragedy” after Heaney spent years looking after his unwell mother and brother.

Ms Prince said Heaney was working as a used car salesman but was not getting paid when he was “offered this opportunity”.

She said Heaney initially turned a blind eye to the operation, but within a couple of weeks he realised what was actually going on.

She argued that a psychological report showed Heaney was vulnerable, but Judge Mark Herron refused to accept Heaney’s vulnerability was “different to anybody else” and said there was no mental health condition that appeared relevant to the offending.

Ms Prince said a number of “glowing” reference letters showed Heaney was “well thought of” and someone who was engaged in the community.

Judge Herron said Heaney’s involvement was over a long period of time, he was aware of the significant commercial operation and he played an important role that was likely to continue “indefinitely into the future”.

State prosecutor Daniel Harrop said that while Heaney had no active role in physically growing or distributing cannabis, he was still an integral part of the operation.

“A message needs to be sent to the community that if you take any part in serious drug offending of this kind, you will be dealt with severely by the law,” Mr Harrop said.

Heaney will spend at least six months behind bars after he was sentenced to 12 months jail and made eligible for parole.

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