Drug dealing couple could lose dream holiday home

The house in Little Sutton that Michael Foster and Susan Cooper turned into a cannabis factory.
The house in Little Sutton that Michael Foster and Susan Cooper turned into a cannabis factory.
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A Little Sutton couple who led a double life handing out much of their drug dealing fortune to African villagers face losing their dream holiday home to pay some of the money back.

Susan Cooper (63) and her partner Michael Foster (62) were each jailed for three years in October after transforming their house (pictured right) into a cannabis factory.

The couple, who moved to Norwich while police investigated the finances and operation of the cannabis farm, regularly flew to Kenya where they used much of their ill gotten gains to help villagers and charities.

References showed the pair were regular donors to the Kwale District Eye Hospital where their cash was used to buy computers. They also paid for children to be put through school and for a life saving operation on a man’s infected leg.

Another testimonial included a photograph of Foster with the “Hamisi” family who named their three-year-old son Foster because of his good work in the country.

After the couple’s incredible six year double life was exposed investigators examined their finances to see if any assets could be seized.

A proceeds of crime hearing at Lincoln Crown Court was told on Friday the couple made a benefit of £300,000 from their crimes but that Foster had no realizable assets.

The court heard Cooper had realizable assets of £59,006 which included £20,000 in cash found when police raided Home House Farm in Little Sutton where the couple were living.

Cooper’s remaining assets are made up of her half share in a holiday home located on Kenya’s Diani Beach, near Mombasa, valued at £39,006.

Recorder Nigel Daly told Cooper that unless the full £59,006 was confiscated from her by August 1 she would face an extra 20 months in prison.

Foster was given 28 days to pay back the nominal sum of just £1 or face one day extra in custody.

Chris Milligan, mitigating for Cooper, told the hearing she was likely to remain in custody until December and may face problems selling her stake in the Kenyan property.

“The £20,000 in the hands of the police has already been disclaimed by her. The figure outstanding is £39,000. That is her share of the property in Kenya which is jointly owned between her and her brother,” Mr Milligan said.

The couple had been completely “off the police radar” when a beat officer chasing a burglar near their home in Bridge Road noticed a distinctive cannabis smell coming from the property.

Inside police found 159 cannabis plants with an estimated street value of £20,000. Two of the buildings had been converted into a growing room and drying room. Officers also recovered £20,000 in £1,000 bundles from a carrier bag.

Investigations showed the annual electricity bill for the house had risen by £2,000 which the couple explained by claiming to run a pottery business with a kiln. They were also using another growing site in Terrington St Clement.

Bank statements showed around £300,000 had been paid into the couple’s joint account between 2004 and 2010. A further £100,000 had gone through an account held in Cooper’s maiden name.

Prosecutor Jon Dee told the sentencing hearing: “The Crown accept some of the money will not have come from drug dealing, at some point the home of Cooper’s mother was sold, but not all the money would have been paid in.”

When finally caught in June 2010 Cooper “apologised profusely” for being unable to answer police questions. Foster admitted regularly selling wholesale deals of around £1,500 to one local drugs baron who was he was introduced to through a loan shark.

At their sentencing hearing Judge Sean Morris told the couple: “I am sure you were doing good things in Kenya with your drugs money, whether that was to appease your consciences I can only speculate.”

The couple admitted four charges of producing cannabis and a single offence of possessing criminal cash between March 2004 and June 2010.