Legal battle halts Suffolk Constabulary’s destruction of UK’s largest firearms haul

James Arnold

James Arnold

One of Suffolk’s most intriguing crime stories has taken a new and dramatic twist, the EADT can reveal.

Thompson sub machine gun

Thompson sub machine gun

More than two years ago, Suffolk police discovered nearly 500 weapons hidden in and around the village home of former parish council chairman James Arnold in Wyverstone, near Stowmarket. It was the biggest weapons haul ever found on the British mainland.

Arnold was arrested, but died from cancer before he could face trial. Subsequently, gun-dealing fantasist “Sir’’ Anthony Buckland, who invented his knighthood and a glittering army career, was jailed.

Then, in April, Suffolk police invited the nation’s media to witness the beginning of what was meant to be the destruction of the 461 weapons found at James Arnold’s home.

It would take about a week to complete the process, they said.

Now, we can reveal, the destruction of the weapons was halted after only one day because of a legal challenge on behalf of Arnold’s family. More than 400 of the weapons remain intact. Suffolk detectives are now contesting the challenge.

By the end of April this year the cost of Operation Cannington had reached £267,780, with Suffolk Constabulary’s portion of the bill totalling £116,484.

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Police said the weaponry was the largest cache of firearms and weaponry ever found on the mainland.

The haul at Arnold’s Potash Lane home included 177 rifles, 136 handguns, 88 shotguns, 38 machine guns and 24 miscellaneous weapons such as flare guns.

There was also a large amount of detonation cord and an anti-tank missile, along with 200,000 rounds of ammunition.

Arnold died from pancreatic cancer at the age of 49 in July 2014 in Belmarsh Prison while awaiting trial.

He had been charged with possessing a prohibited Uzi machine gun, an AK47 assault rifle, a bolt action shotgun and a self-loading rifled gun, but had been likely to face further accusations.

Confirming police have had to halt the destruction of the firearms, Det Supt Steve Mattin said: “The process of destroying over 400 illegally-held weapons, which were seized at the home of the late James Arnold in Wyverstone, commenced on April 20.

“However, this was halted the following day, after Suffolk police were contacted by the solicitors representing the estate of James Arnold challenging the destruction. Suffolk Constabulary has responded to this challenge and is currently awaiting a reply.

“Less than 10% of the weapons had been destroyed at that point and the process will remain on hold until the legal matter has been resolved.”

Police admit they will almost certainly never know why James Arnold amassed such an astonishing number of weapons.

A number of theories have been put forward, but Arnold has taken that secret with him to the grave.

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