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Explosives trial jury to go out this week

Howe Barracks, Canterbury, where the soldiers are based
Howe Barracks, Canterbury, where the soldiers are based

The jury in the trial of two Canterbury-based soldiers accused stealing military explosives and helping to pass them on to the criminal underworld in Glasgow will retire to consider its verdict on Thursday.

One of the soliders, a 28-year-old lance corporal, known as Y, declined to give evidence at Madistone Crown Court.

The other soldier, a 37-year-old colour sergeant, had earlier told the jury that the British Army “is his life”.

He admitted he may have acted improperly but maintained he was never involved in passing on weapons or explosives.

The colour sergeant, who can only be referred to as X, said: “I strongly deny all these charges.”

X, together with Y, were serving with the 5th Battalion The Royal Regiment of Scotland (Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders) at Howe Barracks when it is alleged they conspired to steal and possess military explosives and pyrotechnics.

They were arrested in February following a drugs raid on a flat in Glasgow which revealed a stash of British Army equipment in a cupboard.

A third member of their platoon, a 27-year-old sergeant referred to as B, was also arrested and has pleaded guilty to his involvement.

The court heard that at the time of X’s arrest police found seven sticks of military plastic explosives, 80 plain detonators, 16 electrical detonators and 20 firing wires and safety fuses in a padlocked locker behind his desk.

During his interview he later told officers he had originally found the equipment in a metal battle box in the platoon storeroom and transferred it to his locker before going on two weeks’ leave.

The jury heard earlier in the trial that there were allegedly enough explosives in the locker to “bring down a small skyscraper.”

However, X told the eight women and four men that they were “unlikely” to be dangerous as the detonators and explosives were not connected to one another.

“They are dangerous when they are set up as I have been taught,” he explained. “When I looked at them they were not dangerous. They were in their packaging.”

X said that when he opened the box he never suspected that any of his men were criminally involved.

He explained that he could have informed his superior officers but that would have put “a black cloud” over the platoon and regiment.

He added: “I may have done some actions that are improper, but at no time was I passing on any stolen goods or weapons or explosives to a third party.”

Following his arrest X was unable to go to Afghanistan with his regiment.

“The British Army is my life,” he said. “Not going to Afghanistan has made me gutted. That’s my job and that’s the pinnacle of my career - to do a war-fighting role.”

X and Y deny conspiracy to possess explosives between October 31, last year, and February 16. They have also pleaded not guilty to conspiracy to steal explosives, detonators, flares, smoke grenades, destruction grenades and other munitions from the British Army between the same dates.

B, together with his 25-year-old brother-in-law Andrew Quinn, of Whitehill Place, Glasgow, admit conspiracy to possess explosives and conspiracy to dishonestly undertake or assist in the retention, removal, disposal or realisation of stolen goods.

Quinn had also been with the same regiment but was not a serving soldier at the time, having been dismissed for failing a drugs test.

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