Father and son convicted of selling firearms

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The Independent Online

A father and son were convicted yesterday of supplying criminals with thousands of deactivated guns that were converted into lethal weapons and used in at least eight murders and scores of shootings.

William Greenwood, 76, and Mitchell Greenwood, 42, both of South Wingfield, Derbyshire, also provided gangsters with kits to reactivate the firearms, that included AK-47 rifles, and Uzi sub-machine guns.

Police are now to press the Home Office to tighten the laws on the weapons, known as Deactivated War Trophies.

The two defendants, who face substantial sentences, sold the weapons from a converted farm building, advertising them in gun magazines. Derby Crown Court heard that criminal clients were sold kits to convert the guns - including MAC10 and Browning pistols - and were told, via a series of "nods and winks", which firearms could be reactivated.

Deactivated guns are typically made safe by removing the firing mechanism and blocking the barrel. But jurors found both men guilty of a charge of conspiracy to convert deactivated firearms into live weapons after hearing that the Greenwoods sold guns with barrel blanks and chamber reamers - the tools needed to restore the firearms.

At the end of the six-week trial, police revealed that weapons sold by the Greenwoods had been recovered at the scenes of eight murders, countless gangland shootings and in a loyalist arms cache.

Among their clients was Anthony Mitchell, a former special constable from Brighton, who was jailed for eight years and found to have supplied weapons used in shootings in Glasgow, Manchester and London. He had used the Greenwoods to buy Uzi sub-machine guns, which he converted to fire 800 rounds a minute. Another customer was Anthony Shaw, sentenced to 10 years for supplying illegal firearms, who spent £10,000 in 18 months to purchase more than 100 separate weapons.

Detectives said as many as 3,000 weapons sold by the family were still likely to be in the hands of criminals and confirmed that they are seeking talks with the Home Office to lobby for tighter controls on deactivated guns.

The police were first alerted to the business by a television reporter who secretly filmed the advice offered by the Greenwoods in 1995. During police undercover work in 1998 and 1999, a detective was offered machine guns and pistols at the Greenwoods' store in Little Eaton, near Derby.

The court heard that the shop and the family home were raided in 1999 following a second undercover purchase, when a police officer exchanged £2,040 in cash for three carrier bags stuffed with 22 handguns, tools and ammunition. Police seized more than 700 deactivated firearms, together with ammunition and tools, arresting the Greenwoods at gunpoint after armed officers surrounded their shop.

The Greenwoods claimed that customers who asked about reactivation were warned that they risked breaking the law.