A FORMER Royal Air Force driver was caught growing cannabis in a flat — just one day after renting the Horwich property.

A letting agent reported Jamie Thomas to police after discovering cannabis in the Chorley New Road property while carrying out an inspection to see what work needed to be carried out.

Thomas, aged 24, had signed a lease for the flat the day before the 48 immature plants were found on February 8 last year.

Richard Orme, prosecuting at Bolton Crown Court, said: “Thomas took a lease out on the flat.

“Three weeks prior to that date, the defendant had been shown around the flat and the agent confirmed it was empty of any items.

“The day after the lease had been taken out, the agent attended to find out what repairs and painting were required.

“When he attended he could immediately smell cannabis and could see boxes in the living room.

“He entered the pantry and found 48 immature cannabis plants in soil in clear plastic glasses.”

Police were called and found items used for growing cannabis including bulbs, sacks of compost and fertiliser. If grown, the drugs could have had a street value of £18,500.

Iain Johnstone, defending, said Thomas served at RAF Wittering in Peterborough for four-and-a-half years as a driver but was going to be made redundant due to government cuts.

But he left the RAF prior to losing his job as his grandparents became ill.

The court heard Thomas had struggled to find work after leaving the RAF and decided to grow cannabis as he owed money for payday loans and phone debts, which he was able to repay while working.

Judge Elliot Knopf, sentencing, said: “I consider that you have learned your lesson from this. I consider this to be so serious that only a custodial sentence can be justified, however I will suspend the sentence.”

Thomas, of Kingsway Park, Eccles, pleaded guilty to production of cannabis.

He was sentenced to 22 months imprisonment suspended for two years.

He was also ordered to carry out 300 hours of unpaid work and comply with a curfew to remain at his address between 8pm and 6am for four months.