AN alleged drugs conspirator who slept in a cannabis factory near Worcester told a jury he believed he was taking car parts to Devon in the middle of the night, not selling cocaine.

Karl Browning was involved in a conspiracy to produce cannabis while staying at a bungalow used as a drugs factory in Orchard Way, Leigh, near Worcester after becoming homeless.

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However, the 42-year-old of Hurcott Road, Kidderminster denies knowingly taking cocaine down to Devon on behalf of his brother-in-law, Gareth Pegler, who has already admitted the conspiracy.

Browning said he thought his wife's brother was a tattooist who made his money selling cars and that the packages he was transporting contained car parts.

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Karl Browning, Sinead Lavelle and Vander Browning deny conspiracy to supply class A drugs (cocaine) between January 1, 2018 and June 1 last year.

Tim Valentine denies conspiracy to produce cannabis and conspiracy to supply cannabis between January 1, 2018 and June 1 last year. Darren Pegler denies conspiracy to produce cannabis between August 1, 2018 and November 1, 2020.

Other cannabis factories, linked to other alleged conspirators, were found in a room above Forty Fathoms Aquatic in Greatfield Road, Kidderminster and at an address in Queen Elizabeth Road in Kidderminster.

Cross-examined by Tim Harrington, prosecuting, Karl Browning said he did not look inside the boxes he transported to Ilfracombe in Devon.

He told the jury he stayed at Orchard Way because he had become homeless after experiencing marital problems. Gareth Pegler, his wife's brother, offered to let him stay - 'somewhere where I could get my head down, to be able to sleep and feel safe'.

He said Gareth Pegler had not told him there was a cannabis factory there but he knew once he arrived at the address. "I was shocked that I saw what I saw because I had no idea" he said.

Browning said he had 'no inkling beforehand' that Gareth Pegler was involved in drugs. He accepted the offer to stay there because 'I was homeless and sick to death of sleeping in my car and having nowhere to go, nowhere I could feel safe and warm'.

Browning said he stayed there 'no more than half a dozen nights'. He said that he checked the water for the plants and reported back to Gareth Pegler 'a couple of times' while he was staying there.

He accepted helping set up another cannabis tent at the property on September 12, 2019. Gareth Pegler, Darren Pegler and Karl Browning were all photographed by undercover officers wearing black gloves on that day.

Browning said Darren Pegler did not know about the conspiracy and was wearing gloves because he was 'fixing the washing machine'.

He told the jury Darren Pegler had left the property before the others set up another cannabis tent and had 'no direct involvement'.

Browning accepted making a trip down to Devon overnight on August 20 and 21, 2019. Earlier on August 20 Gareth Pegler asked his supplier for four and a half ounces of cocaine, say the prosecution.

It is their case that Browning drove the cocaine down to Devon and picked up cash in return. A second trip happened on September 21 last year, the court heard.

Browning told the jury he thought 'the stuff' he picked up in a cardboard box off the top of Gareth Pegler's wardrobe was 'car parts' and he was told to collect £18,900.

"I didn't think it was anything illegal" he said.

Mr Harrington said: "What you actually did was take four and a half ounces of cocaine down for him (Gareth Pegler)."

Browning said: "No, not as far as I know."

Mr Harrington said: "What car parts did you think might cost £19,000?"

Browning replied: "I'm not a mechanic so I don't know nothing about car parts."

Mr Harrington said: "You knew exactly what was going on, didn't you?"

Browning replied 'no sir'.

The prosecutor said: "Why did Gareth Pegler only ask you to go to Devon at night?"

Browning replied: "I don't know why he was asking for me to go at night at the time." Mr Harrington asked him, if this was legitimate car trading, money for car parts, 'didn't it cross your mind it was a bit odd you were asked to go at night?'

Browning responded: "Obviously it's a bit odd."

Mr Harrington asked him: "Didn't you think it was a bit odd you were given thousands of pounds in a carrier bag?"

Browning said: "I did think it was a bit strange. I thought it was peculiar, yes."

Mr Harrington said: "You were expecting to collect £18,900 in cash for some stuff that was on top of Gareth Pegler's wardrobe and you didn't think there was anything dodgy about it?"

The defendant answered: "Not at the time, no."

The trial continues.