POLICE are hunting an Oriental-looking man who was seen fleeing a house during a fire that uncovered a £200,000 drugs farm.
Around 250 cannabis plants were found in a loft by firefighters and police after a blaze in a semi-detached house in Sidlaw Road, Billingham.
Residents saw a man of Oriental appearance running from the house and officers are now appealing for help to find him.
A neighbouring family also had to flee their home after toxic fumes passed through the loft space. Both houses in the quiet residential street were left badly damaged after the fire at 1am on Saturday.
Firefighters had tried to stop the fire spreading from one house to the next, but the adjoining property suffered extensive smoke and water damage.
Police launched an investigation after the blaze into who was growing the plants and how the fire started.
A Cleveland Police spokesperson said: “Police were called to an address on Sidlaw Road, in Billingham, following reports of a fire. A search of the address revealed a cannabis farm in the loft, consisting of approximately 250 plants and thought to be worth around £200,000.
“Upon arrival of the emergency services, a male of Oriental appearance was seen making off from the address in the direction of Roseberry Road.”
Anyone who believe they know who the man is or anyone with further information is asked to contact Detective Constable Tony Snow, of Stockton Drugs Unit, on (01642) 302226 or Crimestoppers on 0800 555111.