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Warning as gun runner jailed for life

A man who supplied machine guns used in nine gangland murders was jailed for life today - and the sentencing judge warned that the death toll caused by his weapons could rise still further.

Self-taught gunsmith Grant Wilkinson, 34, was ordered to serve a minimum term of 11 years after a jury found him guilty of running a gun factory supplying lethal Mac-10 weapons to criminals, mainly in London.

He adapted blank-firing replicas into live-firing guns in a garden shed in Berkshire before they were sold on and used by criminals including the gang that killed Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in Bradford.

Judge Zoe Smith, passing sentence at Reading Crown Court, 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."

Despite its shabby outward appearance, Wilkinson's gun factory was run on a commercial scale, his trial heard.

Wilkinson modified the weapons in the backyard of The Briars, a derelict house at Three Mile Cross, near Reading, which he rented out to tenants as a cover for his criminality. The factory was based in two garden sheds - one a workshop, the other a sound-proofed testing house.

The guns have since been linked to 52 of the 58 Mac-10 shooting incidents since 2004, when he set up his factory as a money-making enterprise, having spotted a gap in the criminal market for deadly Mac-10s.

Denis Burke, of the Thames Valley Crown Prosecution Service's Complex Casework Unit, said the racket "met the demand nationally of the criminal fraternity. The firearms have since been used in all of our big cities, especially London".

One gun was discharged at the scene of the Bradford robbery in which Pc Beshenivsky was killed in November 2005, although it did not fire the fatal shot.

Another of Wilkinson's Mac-10s was used to shoot dead Michael Dosunmu, 15, in February last year as he lay in bed in Peckham, south east London. Two men were targeting his brother in a gang feud.

Prosecutor John Price detailed these and other linked shootings to the court today, including the July 2006 murder of Jason Greene, 29, shot dead in a north London street.

Mr Price also told how three teenagers were seriously injured in a drive-by shooting targeting a house party in east London. Two of the victims just happened to be walking past at the time, he said.

Scotland Yard is offering £10,000 for anyone with information leading to the seizure of 40 Mac-10s which have still not been recovered, or for information leading to the arrests of criminals who have used them.

Wilkinson was convicted of seven offences: conspiracy to convert imitation firearms; conspiracy to sell or transfer firearms; conspiracy to sell or transfer ammunition; two counts of possession of firearms with intent to endanger life; and two counts of possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life.

His co-defendant, Garry Lewis, 38, of Bourne End, Bucks, faced the same charges and was cleared of all of them. Lewis maintained he had been just an "odd-job man" for Wilkinson and knew nothing of the gun racket.

Their three-week trial heard that, using the name Grant Wilson, Wilkinson paid £55,000 in cash in July 2004 for 90 blank-firing Mac-10s from a registered gun dealer claiming they were to be used on the set of the new James Bond film.

The dealer, Guy Savage of Sabre Defence Industries in Northolt, Middlesex, had provided guns for a Bond movie in the past.

The gun factory came to light after one of Wilkinson's tenants pushed open one of the shed doors and stumbled upon gun-making equipment and tools.

Police later found evidence of 11 guns at The Briars and buried in Wooburn Green, Buckinghamshire.

In his defence, Wilkinson claimed he was working for a man called Kevin Danaher, who was murdered in May 2006, stabbed to death by an associate.

Police have started confiscation proceedings on Wilkinson with a view to seizing assets linked to his criminality.

Mr Burke, of the CPS, said outside court today: "As far as Mr Wilkinson is concerned, this is not the end of it. There will be officers from Thames Valley Police investigating his financial affairs and he will be left with nothing, I hope."

Detective Chief Superintendent George Turner of Thames Valley Police, added: "This is a very satisfying sentence from a police point of view. It sends out a clear message."