Family Man' Went To Work Each Day...to Grow A Huge Cannabis Crop
For seven years, no-one suspected that behind the door of Ferns Hollow, Station Road, Ilkeston, David Wyler was running a successful cannabis factory - and producing the strongest strain of the drug seen in this country. But then, neither his wife, friends or family knew either - even though he drove a £93,000 Porsche and had two more expensive cars at home. Simon Burch reports.
With his close-cropped grey hair, sensible glasses and off-the-peg jumper befitting a man in his middle ages, David Wyler makes for an unlikely drug dealer.
If you had passed him in the street walking to and from his property in Station Road, Ilkeston, you would not have thought there was anything untoward about the 55-year-old.
Yet, behind the house's closed front door, he ran a lucrative drug-making operation: a cannabis factory where hundreds of plants were growing.
Wyler tended each one as lovingly as any gardener, knowing that simple nature was making him rich. All he needed to do was water them, feed them and give them light, which, they got in ample amounts, thanks to a cable he had plugged into the mains to draw off free electricity. It worked a treat. Even Wyler admitted that the factory earned him £71,000 a year, and provided a gross income of £600,000 over seven years.
Wyler owned two properties - the house in Ilkeston and his home in Poplar Avenue, Nottingham - and three cars: a Porsche 911 Carrera Turbo, an Audi TT and a BMW 330. He also owned two personalised number plates.
Such was his affluence that when he went to a Porsche dealership to buy his sports car in 2001, he took £50,000 in cash. The dealership refused to take it and he paid an initial £27,000 in a part-exchange deal and made the rest up later.
His conviction brings to an end one of the county's biggest drug enterprises, which also produced the strongest cannabis ever grown in this country, but also brings to an end a remarkable double life.
To his admiring friends and devoted family - and even his wife, an air stewardess - Wyler was kind, caring and, by all accounts, a successful sales manager. But, although he would leave every morning in his suit and tie from his house in Poplar Avenue, his destination at the end of his daily commute was not a plush office but the cannabis factory in Ilkeston he kept secret from everybody.
Most people running cannabis factories, says DS Stuart Kershaw, who investigated the Wyler case, visit their premises two or three times a week. But Wyler went there more often. Parking problems in front of the house meant he had to leave his car around the corner before walking the rest of the way to Ferns Hollow.
Inside, he ran the operation with the dedication and skill befitting a talented businessmen.
He studiously kept records of everything. He noted what plants grew best with what fertiliser, the money each batch earned him and he also kept every receipt, right down to a receipt for a 13-amp plug.
These records would eventually lead to his downfall, by providing police with the evidence they needed to prove how long-lasting - and how extensive - his enterprise was.
"He shot himself in the foot," said Steve Holme, from Derbyshire police's drug-mapping project. "Some drug dealers do keep records, especially if they supply on credit, because they need to keep a record of who owes them money. But they tend to be scraps of paper."
Wyler, on the other hand, had thrown nothing away.
"That was the type of methodical man he was," said Mr Holme. "He kept every guarantee that he'd ever had and there were books of papers everywhere."
It takes 12 weeks to produce cannabis plants ready for harvesting, and the plants would start life as seedlings - the seeds came from existing plants - which Wyler grew in one room. They were transferred to another room for growing on and would mature in another room. Wyler would harvest them at the top of the stairs and then hang them in yet another room to dry.
He would remove the dried, harvested leaves in black bin bags and sell them to cannabis wholesalers.
Another unusual aspect is that the police owe a debt of gratitude to burglars. Wyler's shadowy enterprise was unveiled when burglars tried to break into the house - which was unoccupied - and neighbours raised the alarm, in January this year.
When police arrived, instead of finding a distressed householder, they found no-one home - just a house where cannabis plants grew in every room. The house was designated a crime scene and when police were there the following morning, Wyler arrived and was arrested.
Wyler had run his operation well and in court it emerged why an otherwise-upstanding member of the community had turned to producing drugs: to pay for drugs for himself - cocaine, the cost of which ran into thousands of pounds - and to satisfy his penchant for expensive sports cars.
The cars have been confiscated and police will now hope to deprive him of around £500,000 and assets. Thirty thousand pounds in cash has already been seized, while Wyler also had £40,000 in the bank.
"To find such a large operation like this isn't that common," said Mr Holme. "Most people grow it in a loft or one room.
"It was a big set-up and very well-organised. And he is unusual in that he has no previous convictions and he's getting on a bit for a drug dealer. You tend to get them earlier in life. Wyler has got the highest sentence I've known for something like this. He was good at it, and he got better over the years."
It is also likely he never expected to spend five years in jail for his illegal enterprise.