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Mail-order killer mocked gun law

The gun laws were again shown to be fatally flawed yesterday after it emerged that a man without a gun licence was able to buy two pistols, through a magazine, which he used to murder one woman and shoot three others.

A judge at the Old Bailey called for tighter restrictions on the sale of guns as he sentenced Richard Humphrey to four life terms at the close of a case which has provided further ammunition for the anti-gun lobby.

Sir Lawrence Verney, the Recorder of London, called the ease with which Humphrey bought the weapons from Gun Mart "deplorable". He called for "those that have to make decisions" to take note of how Humphrey executed a mother and tried to kill three other strangers.

His comments follow the furore over the refusal of Tory MPs on a House of Commons committee to recommend the banning of handguns in the wake to the Dunblane massacre. The Government has distanced itself from the MPs' report, fuelling speculation that it is preparing to outlaw pistols.

Humphrey obtained his weapons by pretending to be a dealer and advertising pistols in Gun Mart. He persuaded a man who replied to the advert to send him his gun certificate by post as proof that he was legally entitled to own a firearm. He then used a copy of the certificate to assume the enthusiast's identity and buy two semi-automatic pistols, a .357 calibre Magnum and a .22 pistol, advertised in the magazine.

Humphrey mailed the gun dealer the stolen certificate and pounds 230 in postal orders. In return he was sent the firearms and ammunition by courier.

The dealer became suspicious and tipped off the police, but when they arrived at Humphrey's address in Herne Hill, south London, he had gone. Police have since put their own advertisement in the magazine, warning dealers and enthusiasts to be on the alert.

Joanna Korner QC, for the prosecution, told the jury: "This case has provided the clearest possible demonstration of the ease with which it is possible for criminals to acquire firearms certificates and, indeed, firearms."

Victoria Odususi, 36, wife of a Nigerian airline official, was shot by Humphrey as she returned from church. She was found by her brother, dying near her home in Stockwell, south London.

"It was a wanton and cruel killing, causing immense grief to a number of people," said the judge. He added it was fortunate that Humphrey was not facing a second murder charge after shooting down Wing Commander Peter Drissell in May last year. Humphrey and another man, Paul Ammah, had tried to mug the wing commander as he returned to his Clapham home from the Ministry of Defence. The RAF officer "miraculously survived" a hail of at least five bullets, four of which remain in his body.

Humphrey also tried to kill a passer-by, Carol Bell, who witnessed the mugging and threatened to call the police. She escaped injury. During a row with a man on the London Underground, Humphrey fired at a man's head. But Michael Perry, 23, put up his hand and the shot went into his forearm.

Humphrey earlier fired on another man whom he mugged in Stockwell. He was also convicted of two robberies and firearms offences and was jailed for nine years on these, to run concurrently. He denied all charges.

Humphrey called the jury of seven men and five women "senseless, racist bastards" after they convicted him.

Both John Prescott, deputy Labour leader, and the Police Federation said the case was a further illustration of the need for action against handguns.