Firearms dealer guilty of helping council chief amass ‘UK’s biggest arsenal’

Police attended Potash Road in Wyverstone in April 2014 after weapons were disovered at the home of Parish chairman James Arnold

Police attended Potash Road in Wyverstone in April 2014 after weapons were disovered at the home of Parish chairman James Arnold

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A firearms dealer has been found guilty of helping a parish chairman amass the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever uncovered in the UK

Police found more than 400 firearms in the home of James Arnold, 49, in the village of Wyverstone, Suffolk, as part of checks on his firearms licence in April last year.

Pictures shown at the trial of James Arnold's hidden gunroom at his home in Wyverstone ANL-151214-171220001

Pictures shown at the trial of James Arnold's hidden gunroom at his home in Wyverstone ANL-151214-171220001

The haul gradually came to light as officers spent six weeks searching his home, carrying out controlled explosions and discovering a secret room hidden behind a false wall in his kitchen.

Arnold, chairman of Wyverstone Parish Council, was due to face a string of firearms charges, including possessing an Uzi sub-machine gun and an AK-47 assault rifle, but died of cancer in July last year.

Anthony Buckland, 65, from Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk, has been standing trial at Norwich Crown Court after pleading not guilty to 20 counts of selling prohibited weapons and fraud by false representation.

On Friday a jury found him guilty of 11 counts of selling a prohibited weapon. They will continue their deliberations on the remaining counts.

Judge Stephen Holt instructed the jury of nine men and three women that he would accept majority verdicts on the remaining counts.

During the trial, prosecutor Andrew Oliver told Norwich Crown Court that the discovery was the “biggest stash of weapons this country had ever experienced”.

Buckland, who looked composed as the verdicts were returned, earlier told the court he had known Arnold for more than 25 years.

He said he had legally supplied him with guns and ammunition but would never have supplied him with illegal firearms.

Asked if he ever suspected Arnold of doing anything illegal, he added: “Good heavens, no.”

But records showed he supplied 26 weapons to a man called JJ Hambrose, who the prosecution say was a fictitious character, between 2000 and 2013.

Sixteen of these weapons were found at Arnold’s house in his “hidden room”, Mr Oliver said

The charges also relate to selling weapons which had supposedly been converted to be made legal, but which were in fact prohibited.

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