THREE men convicted of being involved in a cannabis factory found in a cottage have been jailed.

The then cottage owner, Andrew Hemus, 41, of Forest Walk, Buckley, who was unanimously convicted by the jury at an earlier hearing, was jailed for five years.

Two others, Kieron Molloy, 23, of Pine Grove, and Paul Halliday, 37, of Hoole Lane, both Hoole, Chester, were convicted by a majority of 10-2 at the earlier trial. They each received two-and-a-half year sentences.

Judge Philip Hughes, sitting at Mold Crown Court, said the conversion of Keeper’s Cottage in Cymau, between Mold and Wrexham, was extensive.

It involved five rooms on the ground and first floor and a huge amount of lighting and other equipment.

There were 174 plants of various maturity and if they had all developed the potential yield was 4.8kg, worth an estimated £34,000 in street deals.

The court heard Molloy, a man with learning difficulties, had previously been declared a hero when he prevented a robbery at Upton British Legion in Chester.

Molloy said he was employed by Hemus to work in the garden, a claim denied by Hemus.

In evidence, Molloy said he was told he could use the kitchen to make tea but the rest of the house was dangerous because of work going on there.

Halliday said he had been asked to carry out a job by a man he knew, carried equipment into the cottage, but as soon as he realised what was going on he could not wait to get out of there. An attempt had been made to recruit him but he had refused and had nothing to do with it.

Hemus said he owned the cottage but the first he knew about the cannabis plants was after the police found them.

He previously lived there with his wife, they separated, and he had then rented out the property.

David Potter, for Hemus, said after two decades of skilled work on the railways he lost his job in 2009.

The conviction meant he had lost a chance to re-settle in Australia and take up a position there. He had a passion for shooting but his shotgun certificate would now be revoked.

Hemus had also lost the houses he owned and the cottage was worth a fraction of its real value.

A fourth man, taxi driver Craig Russell Handley, 34, of Vale Road, Whitby, Ellesmere Port, was found not guilty at an earlier hearing.