28/08/2008

Life Sentence For Garden Shed Gunsmith

A man who adapted replica guns into live firing weapons used in a series of gangland murders has been jailed for life.

Grant Wilkinson, 34, was found guilty on Wednesday at Reading Crown Court of supplying criminals with his converted weapons such as Mac-10 submachine guns linked to nine murders, including that of PC Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford.

He will serve a minimum of 11 years.

Co-defendant Gary Lewis, 38, of Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, was cleared of all charges.

Wilkinson's gun factory was run on a commercial scale from a garden shed in The Briars, Berkshire.
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Judge Zoe Smith, passing sentence said: "The scale of this criminal enterprise is unprecedented in this country.

"The roll call of deaths and injuries is horrific.

"Some 30 to 40 of these weapons are still unaccounted for, and regrettably but doubtlessly, the roll call of death and serious injury will continue to rise."

Speaking to the BBC, Ian Clarke, whose farm backs onto The Briars, said: "When I heard about it I was gobsmacked.

"The buildings are away from the road and not surrounded by houses so there could have been banging, welding, cutting all those sort of things and people wouldn't have heard.

"I know the person who used to live there and he is as gobsmacked as anyone else.

"When you see and hear local people talking about it they just shake their heads with disbelief."

(GK/JM)

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