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Gloucestershire Business News

Alleged cannabis dealers caught when one of them accidentally set himself on fire

Two alleged cannabis dealers were caught when one of them accidentally set himself on fire while using butane gas to make a potent concentrate of the drug called 'honey oil,' a jury heard on Tuesday (November 29).

Hamza Awan, 32, ran into the garden of a house in Cheltenham in distress, suffering from 18 per cent second-degree burns, and was taken by ambulance to hospital, where he spent almost two weeks undergoing treatment as an in-patient, Gloucester Crown Court was told.

Police and firefighters investigating the incident in the house in Gloucester Road, Cheltenham, found butane gas cylinders, cannabis leaves and everything else needed for the process of making honey oil - also known as hash oil or butane hash, said prosecutor Alec Small.

Hamaz Awan and Hassan Awan, 30, both of Tenby Road, Welling, Kent, plead not guilty to arson, possession of cannabis with intent to supply and producing a quantity of butane hash at number 384, Gloucester Road, Cheltenham, between July 1 and 14, 2019.

They are alleged to have damaged the house, owned by Montpellier Management Ltd, by fire, leading to an insurance pay out of £11,400.

Mr Small told the jury at Cirencester Courthouse: "This trial is about two men producing an illegal controlled substance by processing cannabis with butane gas and it is also about the fire which ensued as a result of that process.

"It was at 2am on July 13, 2019, that firefighters were called to the address. Two firefighters with breathing apparatus went into the property while other colleagues discovered a distressed and burnt man in the front garden.

"An ambulance was called to attend to the man."

Mr Small said that in the house a glass casserole dish in the kitchen had a small fire in it and there was a pan on the hob. It looked like the scene of a chip pan fire, but the firefighters were confused by a sticky yellow liquid on the worktops and smoke damage to the ceiling.

Mr Small said: "The substance, which looked like fat, had melted some of the kitchen cupboard doors and the floor."

"Asked what he had been cooking, the defendant said he could not remember. Mr Hassan Awan said he had been asleep in the house at the time the fire started, and he didn't know what had happened."

Mr Small said investigators found a large bag containing thirty butane gas canisters in the house. Some canisters were full, others empty.

Also found was a large bottle of plant fertiliser. In the garage was the 'unmistakable smell of cannabis' and a bin bag full of the drug was found there, said the prosecutor. A Ford Focus car outside was searched and found to contain two glass tubes about the size of tennis ball containers and they were filled with cannabis.

All the indications were that butane hash production was being carried out in the property, he said.

He explained to the jury that the process produces a pure form of liquid THC - the active cannabis ingredient which makes users high.

Paperwork found in the house led to another Cheltenham address, a flat in Lansdown Crescent, which police broke into and discovered was being used as a cannabis factory, added Mr Small. Extractor fans, heat lamps, rubber sheeting, PVC and foil-lined walls and dehumidifiers all revealed what was being done in the flat, he said.

Investigations revealed that the flat had at one time been sub-let by the tenant to Hassan Awan.

When interviewed, Hamza Awan said he had been standing next to the cooker when he heard a bang and oil went over his arms and legs. He was in hospital for the best part of two weeks.

Hassan Awan told police he had lived in the Lansdown Cres flat in 2014 and he accepted that the Ford Focus was his but denied any knowledge of the cannabis in it.

"He said on the night of the fire he was woken by a loud bang and then saw Hamza rolling around in the garden on fire. Hamza made no comment to the police.

"In a later interview both men said no comment."

Mr Small added that when Hassan's phone was checked by police they found three notes, two of which appeared to be shopping lists or guides to ingredients needed for growing cannabis and the third related to amounts of cannabis and different strains of cannabis plants.

The trial continues.

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