When police found an 8 year old boy locked in a tin shed on a property not far from the little town of Elans, near Taree, they were stunned.
It's alleged he spent the entire September/October school holidays locked up in his tiny cell with only a thin mattress, a stool and an old paint tin to use as a toilet. He was only allowed out to work on the farm and had to survive on potato chips, muesli bars and no water.
In March, his family paid $420,000 for the five hectare property and he moved in with his three other siblings, their mother, her boyfriend, the mother's brother and several other adults.
When authorities were notified that the boy had been missing a lot of school time, officers turned up to check on his welfare, but he was found to be okay and they left.
In July, there was a standoff when the family repeatedly refused Telstra technicians access to their property. Police were called and the matter was settled.
In October, another woman living on the property presented at the Manning Base Hospital in Taree with injuries but wouldn't sign a statement about what happened. Police already knew an 8 year old boy living on the property had been missing a lot of school so they decided to pay another visit.
Although police suspected there was a drug farm somewhere on the property, they could find no evidence of it and left.
Still suspicious, they approached Detective Inspector Peter McKenna who granted a search warrant and they returned on 17 December.
As they moved around the property, at the back of a corrugated iron shed, they discovered a locked room and inside, they found the malnourished 8 year old boy they had checked up on just one month earlier.
The boy and his three siblings, aged between 12 months and nine years, were taken into care.
Frustrated police were about to leave when one of the officers spotted a switch on a wooden deck that held a spa and some furniture.
Suddenly there was a loud humming noise as the hydraulics kicked in and the deck started rolling away with police still standing on it, to reveal the trapdoors to one of the most elaborate hydroponic cannabis set-ups ever seen.
The woman's partner said he put the boy in the shed because he needed disciplining. Inside Kempsey jail, he was bashed by other inmates on Christmas Eve and had to be removed to protective custody.
What a shame.