A “GARDENER” was found tending to cannabis plants inside a Southend home by police attending reports of a burglary.

Alfred Putro, an Albanian national, was found by police inside the property in Selbourne Drive alongside hundreds of cannabis plants.

Police descended on the home after reports of a burglary by neighbours.

The 38-year-old was employed as a gardener to water and maintain the 339 cannabis plants.

During his arrest, police realised when the burglars had sprayed his face with a noxious liquid.

At Basildon Crown Court on Wednesday, Recorder Paul Sharkey said: “On the evening of November 8, 2020, police were called to a property due to a suspected burglary.

“When they attended the property it was clear that cannabis was being cultivated. You were located hiding amongst several cannabis plants.

“When you were arrested it was clear that you were complaining of pain in your eyes.

“It was clear that the males breaking in had sprayed something in your face. There were 339 cannabis plants in various stages of growth, which were seized.

“Your fingerprints were on plant pots and other equipment within the property.”

Putro later admitted producing cannabis.

Mitigation for Putro said he was employed as a gardener to help prepare plants to be harvested, with someone else also helping to harvest them.

The court heard once Putro has served his time he would like to go back to Albania and help care for his daughter.

Recorder Sharkey added: “It was an operation that could produce significant amounts of cannabis.

“Your role was essentially a lesser role, being a gardener attending the plants.

“It was a significant number of plants producing large amounts of cannabis for future supply.”

Recorder Sharkey said that taking into account his role and personal circumstances, the sentence would be eight months in prison.

Putro, who has been on remand since his arrest in November, is set to be released from prison immediately due to the time he has already served.