US killer granted British gun licence

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The Independent Online

He was on death row in the States for two years, convicted of a gruesome double murder. Described by a judge as violent and extremely dangerous, he served a nine-year prison term for gun crime.

Robert Elmer Kleasen, a paranoid schizophrenic, escaped the electric chair on a legal technicality. Then he came to Britain and, without a single check being made, he was given a firearms certificate and a licence to deal in guns.

Last month he pleaded guilty to a string of firearms offences in this country, amassing an illegal hoard of guns and ammunition. But, let out on bail, he freely walks the streets.

Now the Home Secretary, Jack Straw, is urging police chiefs to tighten up checks on the background of foreigners applying for gun licences to ensure that such a dangerous oversight is never repeated.

And in response, the Association of Chief Police Officers plans a new set of national guidelines. A police source said the association's firearms and explosives licensing special committee was "now advising that checks should be done through Interpol and Special Branch".

Shona McIsaac, Labour MP representing Barton-upon-Humber - where Kleasen (believed dead in the US) emerged - said: "He should never have been given indefinite leave to remain anywhere. I simply don't want somebody like that walking the streets of Barton-upon-Humber or anywhere else for that matter. He ought to be deported.

"People still very clearly remember Dunblane and Hungerford and here is a man who is still violent, still threatening, still obsessed with guns. We are right to be worried."

The case has prompted a review of the national guidelines on guns because Humberside Police insist that they "followed accepted practice" when they gave Kleasen a licence to hold, sell and buy guns.

Despite the high-profile legislation that was introduced after the Dunblane massacre, 67-year-old Kleasen managed to collect an arsenal of semi-automatic rifles, shotguns and ammunition.

The police failed to make sufficient checks and the immigration service failed to stop a notorious gunman with a record dating back to 1950 from entering Britain.

Earlier this year Mike Tyson, a convicted rapist, was forced to seek the Home Secretary's special permission when he wanted to take part in a boxing match. Kleasen, on the other hand, walked in unchallenged. He entered Britain in 1990 and a year later married his penfriend Marie Kleasen, a British widow, who believed he was a teacher working in the US prison system.

In fact he had been sentenced to more than 15 years in American jails for firearms offences and a shooting, and had spent two years awaiting death for killing two Mormon missionaries in Texas in 1974.

A jury took 20 minutes to find Kleasen guilty of those murders, believed to have taken place in a taxidermy shop, where he was a caretaker. Traces of the victims' remains were found on a bandsaw in the shop but the bodies were never found. The conviction was overturned on a technicality when it emerged that police officers had failed to execute a search warrant correctly.

According to Ken Driggs, an American lawyer who will next month publish a book about Kleasen's criminal past, a 1977 death row evaluation concluded that he was "an extremely dangerous person who would constitute a threat in society if ever released".

Kleasen was charged and has since pleaded guilty at Grimsby Crown Court to illegally possessing firearms. His gun licence was revoked last April when the matter was handed over to police.