$100,000 dope ‘catch’

Some of the cannabis plants hidden within the forest. Picture: TARA GOONAN
Some of the cannabis plants hidden within the forest. Picture: TARA GOONAN

IT all started with a fisherman and ended in a $100,000 drug bust.

In December a man told Beechworth police he had stumbled across cannabis growing in the Stanley State Forest where he had been fishing.

The fisherman’s catch may have been an accident but yesterday’s find was the result of two months’ hard work.

Instead of initially ripping the plants up, police waited.

Since December, Beechworth and Wodonga police have collated evidence and conducted surveillance to prosecute a suspect.

The climax to their investigation started at 6am yesterday with three Wodonga police officers kitting-up at their station in camouflage pants, with guns and police radios at the ready.

“We prepare for the worst,” Detective Sgt Graeme Simpfendorfer said.

They were also hoping for the best, which, according to their initial surveillance, would be more than 100 cannabis plants.

Officers met at the Beechworth police station, half would conduct a search at the home of the suspect, while the other half would tramp through the forest to pull up the plants.

At 8.30am, cannabis plants, more than 1.8 metres high, were found reaching through the blackberry bushes and thick scrub.

A Victoria Police botanist, there to examine and weigh the crops, said the plants were months off maturity but the space and access to sunlight had helped their growth.

Further down a creek, three more crops were growing on the banks, land had been cleared and wire fencing put up.

The police radio crackled as the word filtered through that an arrest had been made at a Beechworth home.

The botanist weighed and examined the find — 155 plants, a street value of more than $100,000.

All of this because one keen-eyed fisherman decided to report what he found to police.

“As the result of information, $100,000 worth of drugs have been prevented from being sold to the community,” said Sgt Ray Causer of Wodonga police’s divisional tasking unit.