Published: 17:30, 08 February 2018
| Updated: 17:31, 08 February 2018
Three men and a glamour model have been jailed for a total of more than 29 years for firearm offences.
Arrests were made after a car containing a gun and ammunition was stopped on the M2 between Faversham and Sittingbourne in February last year.
Another gun, which was loaded, was seized from a house in Essex where the model and former bank worker, Sandy Hunter, was living with her young daughter.
Her ex-boyfriend Spencer Tapper, 37, was given the longest sentence of 15 years at Maidstone Crown Court today.
Aymon Popo, 33, was jailed for six years and five months, Mahesh Chaitoo, 28, for five years and five months and 33-year-old Hunter for two-and-a-half years.
Prosecutor Paul Valder said Tapper was in a BMW which armed Metropolitan police officers followed from Brentwood to Westwood Cross shopping centre in Broadstairs on February 19 last year.
Tapper met up with a man from Thanet and they drove to an address in Melbourne Avenue in Ramsgate. They were joined by Chaitoo driving a Ford Fiesta.
They drove in convoy back to towards London. Traffic started to build up and the officers decided to stop the Fiesta.
Chaitoo was arrested and a .455 Colt self-loading pistol, made for the British military, and 50 cartridges in a knotted bag was seized from under the cover of the spare wheel.
The BMW pulled over by the central reservation blocking other traffic. Police shadowed it for about 30 minutes before stopping it and arresting Tapper.
Police had in November 2016 found a Croatian 9mm Parabellum self-loading pistol and cartridges in Hunter’s bedroom in Dagenham.
The weapon was in a holdall inside a wardrobe full of shoes and boxes. The gun magazine contained 15 rounds of ammunition. A further 26 loose cartridges were also found.
She denied any knowledge of the gun and said she had “a lot of enemies”. But her lawyer said her only enemy was Tapper.
She called the gun “ting” in an exchange about it being dropped off and collected from her home.
Tapper was said to be “the guiding hand”, who used Chaitoo to transfer the weapon. Popo was the conduit between the two.
Miss Hunter said Tapper had visited her a few days before the raid and they slept together.
Several messages exchanged during a lengthy chat on October 19 were about arrangements to drop off the gun at her home, where it would be left and when collected.
Tapper warned her he would “smash her head in” and added: “If you lose it, prepare to lose your dogs.”
Hunter, of Horsebridge Close, Dagenham, admitted two charges of intentionally assisting the commission of an offence involving Tapper possessing the gun and ammunition.
Tapper, of School Road, Dagenham, admitted possessing a prohibited firearm and ammunition without a firearms certificate.
Popo, of Highfield Road, Romford, and Chaitoo, of Beresford Road, Southend, both admitted possessing a prohibited firearm. Popo also admitted possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate.
Judge Martin Huseyin said there was no evidence about what the gun being taken from Thanet was to be used for.
He told Tapper, who has previous convictions for firearms offences: “There was a degree of planning and sophistication in how you committed these offences.
“The type of messages that passed between you and Miss Hunter is a measure of the type of person you are. Your reaction was to say you would kill her family dogs if she did not obey your command.”
The judge told Hunter, who has been managing two barber shops, she had acted from a mixture of loyalty to Tapper and being besotted with him.
“I am very reluctant to impose a custodial sentence on the main carer of any child,” he said. “It is something to be avoided where possible.
“I have thought greatly whether the sentence could be suspended but it seems to me there has to be an immediate custodial sentence.”
More than seven months of a tagged curfew will count towards her sentence.
Detective Inspector Tim Grinsted from the Met Police, who led the investigation, said: "Firearms pose a significant danger to the public and we are delighted that we've been able to take them off the streets.
"This was a very complex investigation, with the defendants carrying and exchanging firearms across London and Kent. Their sentences reflect just how serious the courts take this type of offending.
"Gun crime of any kind will not be tolerated and the Trident and Area Crime Command is committed to reducing offending linked to firearms and removing them from criminal circulation."
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