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Norfolk firearms dealer guilty of helping council chief amass 'UK's biggest arsenal'

PUBLISHED: 13:13 18 December 2015 | UPDATED: 07:59 19 December 2015

Anthony Buckland was found guilty at Norwich Crown Court.
PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

Anthony Buckland was found guilty at Norwich Crown Court. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY

ARCHANT NORFOLK

A Norfolk firearms dealer found guilty of helping a parish council chairman amass the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever uncovered in the UK has been warned he faces a lengthy jail term.

Weapons in the home of James Arnold in Wyverstone, Suffolk, where the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever found in the UK was found. Photo: Suffolk Police/PA WireWeapons in the home of James Arnold in Wyverstone, Suffolk, where the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever found in the UK was found. Photo: Suffolk Police/PA Wire

Police found more than 400 firearms in the home of James Arnold, 49, in the village of Wyverstone, Suffolk, as part of checks on his firearms licence in April last year.

The haul gradually came to light as officers spent six weeks searching his home, carrying out controlled explosions and discovering a secret room hidden behind a false wall in his kitchen.

Arnold, chairman of Wyverstone Parish Council, was due to face a string of firearms charges, including possessing an Uzi sub-machine gun and an AK-47 assault rifle, but died of cancer in July last year.

Anthony Buckland, 65, from Stoke Holy Cross, Norfolk, has been standing trial at Norwich Crown Court after pleading not guilty to 20 counts of selling prohibited weapons and fraud by false representation.

Suffolk Police handout photo of a safe in the home of James Arnold in Wyverstone, Suffolk, where the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever found in the UK was found. Photo: Suffolk Police/PA WireSuffolk Police handout photo of a safe in the home of James Arnold in Wyverstone, Suffolk, where the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever found in the UK was found. Photo: Suffolk Police/PA Wire

A jury unanimously found him guilty of 11 counts of selling a prohibited weapon on Friday.

Later, they found him guilty of the remaining nine fraud counts by a majority verdict of 10 to two.

Buckland shook uncontrollably as the verdicts were returned.

Judge Stephen Holt released him on bail until a sentencing hearing on January 9.

The pantry at the home of James Arnold in Wyverstone, Suffolk, where the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever found in the UK was found. Photo: Suffolk Police/PA WireThe pantry at the home of James Arnold in Wyverstone, Suffolk, where the biggest hoard of illegal weapons ever found in the UK was found. Photo: Suffolk Police/PA Wire

He added: “I think I need to have much more knowledge of your medical condition.

“As you know, parliament has said the minimum sentence for this is one of five years.”

No explanation as to why Arnold collected the weapons was offered to the court during the trial.

Prosecutor Andrew Oliver told Norwich Crown Court that the discovery was the “biggest stash of weapons this country had ever experienced”.

Buckland earlier told the court he had known Arnold for more than 25 years.

He said he had legally supplied him with guns and ammunition but would never have supplied him with illegal firearms.

Asked if he ever suspected Arnold of doing anything illegal, he added: “Good heavens, no.”

But records showed he supplied 26 weapons to a man called JJ Hambrose, who the prosecution say was a fictitious character, between 2000 and 2013.

Sixteen of these weapons were found at Arnold’s house in his “hidden room”, Mr Oliver said

The charges also relate to selling weapons which had supposedly been converted to be made legal, but which were in fact prohibited.

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