Arms dealer 'obsessed', court heard

A FIREARMS dealer who became "obsessed" with guns kept dozens of illegally-held weapons – including rocket launchers – at his village home, a court heard.

A FIREARMS dealer who became "obsessed" with guns kept dozens of illegally-held weapons – including rocket launchers – at his village home, a court heard.

Richard Ashley, who supplied arms to Suffolk and Norfolk police, amassed more than 100 weapons, including some which could have "no legitimate civilian use", Ipswich Crown Court was told yesterday.

The huge haul included 48 handguns, 42 machine guns, three rocket launchers, seven riot guns and two grenade launchers.

Ashley, 58, from Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds, has denied five charges of possessing prohibited weapons without the permission of the Home Secretary.


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He claimed many of the guns found at his home were simply antiques and alleged a selection of the machine guns had been assembled from parts by police in an attempt to "fit him up".

Craig Rush, prosecuting, said the weapons had been found when 20 police officers had raided Ashley's home on February 14, 2001.

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He added the dealer, who had a firearms certificate, was authorised to possess 75 pre-assembled prohibited weapons, including 30 machine guns, and an additional 30 handguns.

But Mr Rush said the number of handguns and machine guns outstripped the legal limits and Ashley "simply should not have had" weapons like riot guns that fired CS gas, rocket and grenade launchers and an anti-tank gun.

The weapons included an AK47 assault rifle, an Uzi sub-machine gun, an SA80 rifle – like those recently used by the military in Iraq – Sten Guns and a Walther PPK handgun.

Martyn Levett, defending, said Ashley had supplied arms to Suffolk and Norfolk police for a considerable number of years and lectured on topics such as terrorism and security matters.

Mr Levett said Ashley was a "highly-respected and highly-skilled" gunsmith and historian, who was a collector of First World War militaria.

"It is beyond doubt that his skill and expertise is well-known for being able to repair firearms," he added.

"He is a respected collector and is a person able to manufacture with precision any component of a gun with a piece of metal."

The trial continues today.

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