Updated: TWO gangsters have been jailed for life after bludgeoning their accomplice to death at a cannabis factory in Elvington.

His body was later dumped in a canal near Selby by other members of the gang.

North Yorkshire Police believe a Chinese crime syndicate was linked to the Elvington operation and similar illegal farms in Bristol, Sheffield, Doncaster, Birmingham and elsewhere, and had shadowy foreign financial backing.

One of the gang claimed during his trial that killer Bao Lung Huang was a member of the 14K Triad crime mob, which is based in Hong Kong but has members worldwide.

Leeds Crown Court heard murder victim Cai Guan Chen, 38, and his killers Huang and Zhouli Zhang, fell out over how they would split the profits from the warehouse on Elvington Industrial Estate that had been secretly converted into a huge cannabis factory producing crops worth £1 million a year.

The murderers locked Mr Chen into a room where they beat him up with hand weapons and strangled him as he vainly fought for his life.

Their crime only came to light weeks later when two fishermen, Craig Murphy and off-duty policeman Darryl Ashwell, spotted his battered and decomposing body in Selby canal, 15 miles from the scene of the murder. It had been bound and dumped there by other members of the gang.

Mr Justice Butterfield told the murderers it was a “brutal killing” and was “aggravated by your attempts to conceal the body of your victim by the indignity you inflicted on his body by dumping it in a canal.”

Bao Lung Huang, 44, of Fujian in China, and Zhouli Zhang, formerly of Heslington Lane, York, and originally from Dong Bei in China, both denied murder and were jailed for life after being convicted unanimously by a jury after a day and a half’s deliberation.

Huang was ordered to serve a minimum of 18 years and Zhang 16. Shaozhe Wang, 25, of Dong Bei, was cleared of murder. Both he and Xia Hua Chen, 28, of Fujian, denied perverting the course of justice, but were found guilty, and pleaded guilty to cultivating cannabis.

Wang was jailed for six years and nine months, Chen for four years and nine months. All four will be deported after they serve their sentences.

Leeds Crown Court heard Huang and Zhang rented the 9,000 sq ft unit for £35,000 plus VAT in August 2008. Using the company as a front, they created a large hidden complex behind an area used for storing food packages. But their major building operations aroused the suspicions of owner David Mitchell.

When police raided the unit on February 25, Wang was tending some of the plants that when fully mature would have produced a £300,000 crop three times a year. Hua Chen hid himself in a wall space and was phoning Huang when police found him.

In mitigation, Simon Bourne Arton, for Huang, said the evidence suggested the murder was “retribution” for an argument and not premeditated. Eric Elliott, for Zhang, said he was an interpreter and driver who came to the country legally to better himself.

Paul Greaney for Wang, said he had a limited role in the cannabis production.

For Chen, David Hatton said his only involvement in the death had been to cover up a blood stain with a piece of plasterboard under duress.

• Huang and Zhang were jailed in July, but the court ruled that the case could not be reported until co-accused involved in the Elvington drugs factory had stood trial.