Police deny 'setting up' firearms dealer

A DETECTIVE has denied police officers tried to "set up" the firearms dealer who supplied their force with weapons.Detective Inspector Chris Pryke, of Suffolk police, said it was "absolute nonsense" to suggest officers had assembled machine guns in an effort to frame armourer Timothy Richard Ashley.

A DETECTIVE has denied police officers tried to "set up" the firearms dealer who supplied their force with weapons.

Detective Inspector Chris Pryke, of Suffolk police, said it was "absolute nonsense" to suggest officers had assembled machine guns in an effort to frame armourer Timothy Richard Ashley.

Ipswich Crown Court heard Ashley, 57, who supplied arms to Suffolk and Norfolk police, had amassed an arsenal of more than 100 prohibited weapons at his cottage in Pakenham, near Bury St Edmunds.

The firearms dealer and weapons expert was authorised to hold a number of pre-assembled prohibited weapons, including machine guns, on his firearms certificate.

But the court was told police officers who raided his home in Fen Road on February 14, 2001, had found greater quantities of weapons than he had been allowed to hold, plus riot guns and rocket and grenade launchers.

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

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Skilled gunsmith Ashley has denied five charges of possessing the weapons without the permission of the Home Secretary.

He claimed many of the guns were kept as antiques and alleged 11 of the machine guns had been assembled by police from their component parts to push the number in his possession over the legal limit.

But, giving evidence yesterday, Det Insp Pryke, the officer in charge of the investigation, said: "I am aware of the allegation, but it is total nonsense.

"That anyone involved in that search would somehow wish to assemble machine guns is just absolute nonsense."

Det Insp Pryke said officers had been shocked by the amount of weapons found at the dealer's home and the meticulous search had taken 15 hours to complete.

He added there had been 20,000 rounds of ammunition and 275 separate weapons which had had to be counted and documented – "far in excess of what we had planned for".

Every weapon and every piece of ammunition was seized, recorded and photographed, and Det Insp Pryke denied any officers would have tampered with the evidence.

"Under no circumstances were officers to assemble guns, even if they knew how to do it," he added. "Before anything left that house, it was photographed in the condition it was seized in."

Det Insp Pryke said bomb disposal experts had also been called to the house and had been "quite startled" by some of the grenades and arms they encountered.

Inspector Alex Morrison, who was involved in the search, told the court he would have challenged any officers he saw assembling weapons.

Jurors were told Ashley's cottage had been raided after an 18-month investigation by customs into his deals and officers had been attempting to locate certain weapons.

Craig Rush, prosecuting, said Ashley had become "obsessed" with guns and had knowingly breached the law to pursue his love with firearms. He even slept with an air pistol under his bed, the court heard.

The prohibited guns found at his country cottage included an AK47 assault rifle, an Uzi sub-machine gun and an anti-tank gun.

The trial continues on Monday.

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