An elderly businessman who was caught with a large secret haul of guns and ammunition has been jailed for five years.
Jeffrey Dawe hid the lethal weapons in a secret compartment in the ceiling at his accident repair workshop in Gravesend.
Officers raided the former R S Dawe workshop at Norfolk Road in Gravesend on August 5 last year and seized over 40 illegal weapons and more than 2,000 pieces of ammunition.
The cache included 24 long barrelled guns, 47 handguns, five flare guns, two BB guns adapted to fire lethal ammunition, two shotguns, a Second World War Russian machine gun with more than 300 rounds of ammunition, and a British Second World War machine gun.
Also found in the property were significant amounts of ammunition of varying calibres, pressing equipment for making rounds, and a large box of fireworks.
Maidstone Crown Court heard none of the firearms had been used and it was accepted that 74-year-old Dawe did not intend to sell any of them.
But a judge said: “The collection was a substantial collection of highly dangerous weapons and materials.”
Dawe, who has since liquidated his business, admitted possessing a firearm without a certificate, possessing a shotgun without a certificate, possessing ammunition without a certificate and three charges of possessing prohibited weapons.
His not guilty pleas were accepted to one charge of possessing prohibited weapons, possessing prohibited weapons for sale, possessing prohibited ammunition for sale, possessing £45,835 in criminal property and possessing extreme pornography of adults having sex with animals.
Dawe told police he acquired some of the weapons and ammunition from antique gun dealer Ray Mills, of Pinnocks Avenue, Gravesend, who later killed himself in woodland off Cobhambury Road, Cobham, before he was about to go on a shoot in March 2015.
Mills, 68, shot himself when he feared he would be sent to prison for owning illegal firearms.
Prosecutor Daniel Stevenson said the secret compartment at Dawe’s business needed a ladder to access it. The firearms were concealed behind corrugated iron and wrapped in plastic sheeting.
They included a PPD-34/38 Russian sub-machine gun with 17 live rounds, shortened shotguns and other firearms that were “heavily greased and functional”.
Most were manufactured in the 1970s, while one, a revolver, dated back to the late 1800s.
At his home in Shrubbery Road, Gravesend, was a dismantled musket type pistol on the kitchen table. One with a blocked barrel was on display as a “curiosity”.
When arrested, Dawe only commented he had not sold any of the firearms and that nobody was at risk.
He said Mills had dropped them off at his premises. He went through them and realised some were illegal. He added he panicked and was deciding what to do with them.
He denied he was making any money from them and said the cash found was savings for him and his wife.
Mr Stevenson said the weapons were made more dangerous by ammunition being available with them.
“It is accepted he has a rather macabre obsession with firearms,” he added. “Having obtained them, he decided to hold onto them for no good reason.”
"It is accepted he has a rather macabre obsession with firearms..." - Prosecutor Daniel Stevenson
Ben Irwin, defending, said Dawe had worked hard all his life, running his business for 45 years.
His fascination with firearms led to him buying them legally at war and peace fairs.
He had not acquired the weapons from Mills for unlawful use. “The criminality is simply in the possession,” said Mr Irwin. “That is a significant mitigating factor.
“It is not a cache of firearms held unsafely. They were stored in his motor mechanics yard in a safe hatch where the public and employees would not have access.
“The firearms had not otherwise been linked to crime. There were no links to drugs or gangs or anything of that nature.”
Mr Irwin said the consequences would be significant for Dawe’s wife of 55 years. He was due to retire this year and he was sorting out his financial affairs.
“His wife now faces a very uncertain future because in reality there is minimal income within the family,” he said.
“This whole experience in the criminal justice system had a huge toll to bear for him and his wife.
"He had no idea how hard it would be in custody because he is completely out of his depth in that sort of environment.”
He was in poor health, suffering from arthritis, making prison more onerous.
“My submission is to allow him light at the end of the tunnel in the hope he may spend more time with his wife before he passes,” he added.
Judge Charles Macdonald QC said Dawe’s intention was to collect and assemble weapons out of his own interest or look after them for Mills.
Dawe faced a minimum five-year sentence and the question, he said, was whether it was just for the criminality or whether it should be increased.
“I think five years is enough,” the judge added.
Detective Inspector Bill Thornton said: "Dawe claimed he collected and assembled his weapons out of his own interest in antiques.
"However, regardless of his intentions, he illegally had in his possession large numbers of firearms that were capable of firing with lethal effect.
"He was fully aware the weapons were illegally held and actively decided not to surrender them to Kent Police.
"This not only ensured there were unregulated, dangerous weapons in the community, but also meant there was a possibility they could fall into the hands of other criminals who would use them to cause harm."
Clarification: In a previous version of this article we said police raided a premises in Lion Business Park in Dering Way. This was incorrect, and we are happy to amend that, and apologise for any inconvenience caused.