Published: 13:00, 01 December 2016
| Updated: 13:44, 01 December 2016
A home in a quiet residential street contained a hoard of illegal firearms, ammunition and a cannabis factory, a court heard.
Police went to Troy Atherton’s house in Shorefields, Rainham, after customs officers intercepted a Turkish EKOL 9mm blank-firing pistol he had ordered from the United States.
They seized a Webley Mk VI .455 double-action service revolver, an Italian Bernardelli self-loading pistol, expanding bullets and other live ammunition.
Atherton, 56, has started a seven-and-a-half year jail sentence after admitting two offences of possessing a prohibited firearm, possessing a missile, possessing ammunition without a firearm certificate, and attempting to possess a prohibited weapon.
The collector of military memorabilia also admitted producing cannabis and abstracting electricity.
A neighbour, who did not wish to be named, said: “I have heard a lot of rumours that something had happened at the house as there were a lot of police there at the time. No one knew exactly what had happened.”
A judge told the father-of-five that people caught with prohibited weapons had to be severely punished.
There were no exceptional circumstances that allowed him to do otherwise, he said.
Maidstone Crown Court was told the guns had been deactivated but would be fully operational if the firing pins were replaced.
Atherton, who was said to have been interested in militaria since a young age and obtained his collection mainly at military fairs, tried to dispose of the Webley gun over a neighbour’s fence.
He was also found to be cultivating 211 cannabis plants, which he claimed were to relieve pain resulting from accidents he had heard.
But the court heard the amount of cannabis – valued at up to £260,000 – was far more than would be required for personal use.
Daniel Benjamin, defending, said that as well as collecting old weapons Atherton also used ammunition casing to construct works of art – including a map of the UK.
He was “full of guilt and shame”, Mr Benjamin said, and would not allow his two youngest children to visit him in prison.
Judge Julian Smith said of the firearms: “There was clearly work that would need to be done to put them back to being functional, but when they were they would be capable of being fired repeatedly and would be utterly lethal.”
He also said it would be naive to suggest the cannabis farm was anything other than a “money-making, large-scale commercial enterprise”.
Atherton was sentenced to five years for the firearm offences and two-and-a-half years consecutive for the cannabis factory.
Investigating officer, DC Wayne Totterdell, said: "Not only did Atherton have a vast array of live ammunition and guns in his house, but he was growing cannabis as well.
"This is a great result which has potentially saved lives by removing lethal weapons from circulation.
"Atherton thought he would make money from producing cannabis but he now knows crime does not pay, his sentence should also be a warning to those wishing to unlawfully possess firearms."
The firearms, components, ammunition, cannabis and paraphernalia have been destroyed.
More by this authorKeith Hunt
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