Gun supplier facing jail

A FORMER Army sergeant who turned a period Essex house into a gun factory to supply gangs across the country with weapons was is tonight facing a lengthy jail term.

Roddy Ashworth

A FORMER Army sergeant who turned a period Essex house into a gun factory to supply gangs across the country with weapons was is tonight facing a lengthy jail term.

Detectives said Paul Alexander, 53, was a “significant” supplier and had been tracked down following the launch of an operation against gangs in the wake of the shooting of 11-year-old Rhys Jones in Liverpool two years ago.

Police said they found a “gun factory” at a country house Alexander rented in the picturesque village of Bardfield Saling, near Braintree, and that his weapons and ammunition had been linked to 28 firearms offences in the UK.

Investigators said Alexander used 30 aliases and ferried guns and ammunition to the Midlands and North West in hire cars.

Chelmsford Crown Court was told that Alexander had admitted possessing firearms and ammunition with intent to endanger life, converting imitation firearms into real firearms, buying and selling prohibited ammunition and money laundering.

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He is due to be sentenced in November.

Alexander was arrested in September, 2008, after a 12-month operation involving detectives from Merseyside, Essex and investigators from the Serious Organised Crime Agency (Soca).

“The guns and ammunition supplied by Paul Alexander are being linked to numerous shootings,” said Mick Layton, deputy director of Soca. Put simply, he was dealing in death.”

Detectives said Alexander had served in the Royal Artillery and left in 1992 with an exemplary record.

But he came to the attention of police in 1995 when he was accused of arson after setting fire to a council flat he lived at in Stoke-on-Trent.

He had then been arrested in December 1996 when trying to travel into the United States from Canada on a false passport.

Alexander had been convicted of a passport offence and spent several months in prison in Vermont before being deported back to the UK and given a 12-month prison sentence for the Stoke-on-Trent arson.

In October 2002 he had been accused of causing an explosion in the garden of a house in Stone, Staffordshire.

A detective said he had again gone missing and been caught in September 2003 in New York.

Alexander had once more been returned to the UK and had been jailed for explosives offences at Stafford Crown Court in 2004.

Police said after leaving the army Alexander had purported to be an author - detectives said he had published two “vanity” thrillers which had not sold - and to be involved in “security” work.

Officers said Alexander had been found after detectives in Merseyside launched an operation aimed at two feuding gangs in Liverpool following the killing of Rhys Jones in 2007.

Police said detectives had recovered a number of firearms from an address in Merseyside and found Alexander's DNA profile on a self-loading pistol.

In June, 2008, his DNA was found on two similar weapons seized during an investigation by Greater Manchester Police.

Police said Alexander had been renting the Bardfield Saling house for �3,800 a month.

Detectives suspect he made hundreds of thousands of pounds and an investigation aimed at locating and seizing assets is under way.

Officers discovered about 28 firearms, including handguns and rifles at the Essex property.

They said Alexander had used skills learned in the army to adapt and convert imitation and fake guns.

Detectives said Alexander' wife Caroline Hunter-Mann-Purdy, 59, and his step daughter Rachael Hunter-Mann had also admitted being involved in money laundering.

Both were given two-year community orders by Judge Charles Gratwicke at Chelmsford Crown Court.