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Man dies after fire at Black Country cannabis factory he was locked inside of

A suspected modern slavery victim has died after being locked inside a cannabis factory when it caught fire in the Black Country.

The fire in Brierley Hill. Photo: West Midlands Fire Service

The man, aged 43, died in hospital on Friday after being rescued from the blaze in Brierley Hill by firefighters on Thursday evening.

A second man, aged in his 20s, was also pulled from the unit and taken to hospital. He has since been discharged.

The men were locked inside the factory unit at the Premier Estate in Brockmoor meaning they had no way of escaping when the fire took hold at around 7.30pm, West Midlands Police said.

Interactive map of the area:

Detectives believe both men had been trafficked into the UK and were being held against their will in the unit which had been converted into an industrial cannabis factory.

Officers are now appealing for anybody with information to come forward and are particularly keen to speak to the pilot of a drone which was flying over the unit when the blaze started.

The cause of the fire is still being investigated and forensic specialists are continuing to examine the scene off Leys Road.

Police have not yet confirmed the nationality of the men.

Police at the scene at the Premier Trading Estate in Brierley Hill

Detective Inspector Jim Mahon, from West Midlands Police 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 cannabis factory was in a unit at the Premier Estate

Superintendent Jason Anderson, of 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."

Six fire crews from across Dudley and Sandwell were sent to the blaze.

Anyone with footage or information is asked to call police via the force website, by calling 101 or by contacting Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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