United Kingdom

'Human slavery' victim, 43, dies after huge fire breaks out at cannabis factory in Birmingham

A suspected human slavery victim has died after he was trapped inside a burning cannabis factory in Brierley Hill, West Midlands.

Two men - believed to have been trafficked to the UK from abroad - were pulled from the blaze, which started in a locked industrial unit at Premier Trading Estate, Leys Road, on Thursday evening.

They were both taken to hospital but one of the men, aged 43, died on Friday afternoon. Police say a postmortem examination will take place to establish the cause of death.

The other man, who is in his 20s, has since been discharged.

Pictured: Smoke rises from an industrial unit in Brierley Hill, West Midlands containing a cannabis factory. A 43-year-old man has died, and was believed to be a slave being held in the factory against his will. Another man in his 20s was also pulled building but survived

West Midlands Police believe the men were 'effectively being held against their will' and said they had no way to escape the fire as the unit, used to grow cannabis on an industrial scale, was locked.

Detectives continue to work closely with West Midlands Fire Service and its specialist investigation team to establish the cause of the fire and the scene is currently being held for forensic analysis.

Detective Inspector Jim Mahon, from force CID, said: 'A man has sadly died and we're working to establish the full circumstances of what happened.

'We are urgently appealing for anyone with information about who is involved in exploiting these men, and involved in the set up to contact us.

'We know there was a drone flying over the unit when the fire first broke out, so we are appealing to the owner of the drone to contact us directly, as the footage recorded may hold vital information in our investigation.

'In order to make the site safe and to recover vital evidence, we have had to suspend power to the trading estate. I want to thank anyone affected by this power outage for their co-operation.'

The two men caught in the fire are believed by the police to be slaves forced to grow and farm cannabis (stock image) against their will

West Midlands Police believe the men were 'effectively being held against their will' and said they had no way to escape the fire as the unit (pictured), used to grow cannabis on an industrial scale, was locked

Superintendent Jason Anderson, from Dudley Neighbourhood Policing Unit, added: 'Our thoughts are with the family of the man who has tragically lost his life in these awful circumstances. We will be supporting detectives leading this enquiry anyway we can.

'A cannabis factory was discovered at the unit and we now believe these vulnerable men were trafficked into the UK and criminally exploited.

'We understand the concerns and harm that drugs cause in our communities and we continue to work tirelessly with partners to prevent organised criminality and the exploitation of vulnerable people in this way.'

Anyone with footage, or any information that could assist the investigation is urged to contact the police via Live Chat at www.west-midlands.police.uk between 8am and midnight or by calling 101.

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