A 66-year-old antique firearms dealer from Gloucestershire has been jailed for 30 years after being found guilty of supplying weapons and handcrafted bullets to gangsters across the UK.
Ammunition made by Paul Edmunds and weapons supplied by him have been found at more than 100 crime scenes including gangland murders and a firearms attack on a police helicopter.
Edmunds crafted bespoke bullets for use in vintage weapons such as Smith & Wesson pistols from the US and 19th-century French and Russian guns that he brought into the UK supposedly as collectors’ curiosities.
He also imported prohibited 1950s Colt pistols following trips to Chicago, Las Vegas and Denver and falsely claimed they were more than a century old and therefore antiques.
Jailing Edmunds, Judge Richard Bond told him: “You ran roughshod over your legal responsibilities as a registered firearms dealer.
“You were at the top of the chain of supply of handguns and ammunition to criminal gangs.
“Without your actions the numerous handguns and hand-loaded ammunition would not have found their way on to the streets of the United Kingdom.
“Quite simply, you were the linchpin to this conspiracy and without you it could not have been carried out.”
Edmunds, standing in the dock dressed in a formal white shirt, stood silently and did not react as he was jailed.
A few feet away, in the public gallery, were the parents of an 18-year-old shooting victim, Kenichi Phillips, killed in Birmingham in March last year. One of Edmunds’s unfired rounds was found at the scene of his murder.
In wider remarks calling for tighter firearms regulations, the judge added: “Unfortunately it takes just one person, as this case shows, to act in breach of the trust placed in them. Death and mayhem follow.”
Edmunds supplied the guns and ammunition to an outwardly respectable Birmingham physiotherapist called Mohinder Surdhar after the pair met at a legitimate gun fair in 2008.
In turn, Surdhar passed them on to a notorious Birmingham crime group called the Burger Bar gang, who kept some and sold others to underworld contacts.
When West Midlands police arrested Edmunds at his modest home in the Gloucestershire village of Hardwicke they found 100,000 rounds of ammunition in his garage, bedroom and attic.
Detectives have linked 1,000 rounds of ammunition and 17 guns found at UK crime scenes to Edmunds but believe many other guns and ammunition that passed through his hands are still in the possession of criminals.
West Midlands police have likened Edmunds and Surdhar to the unlikely crooks Walter White and Jesse Pinkman from the US television show Breaking Bad – apparently decent but making money through crime. They said Edmunds had an “encyclopaedic knowledge” of firearms.
When he was interviewed by police Edmunds spoke candidly about his disdain for the UK’s strict laws on firearms and the handgun ban introduced in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy.
He told police he “didn’t give a s***” about potential victims. He said he was “not responsible for the actions of somebody that buys some things”, adding that his “duty of care” extended only to not selling to people who “didn’t look right”.
Police said that of the 280 guns imported between 2009 and 2015, the whereabouts of 207 remained a mystery.
Edmunds was found guilty of conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons and ammunition, two counts of perverting the course of justice, transferring prohibited weapons, possession of prohibited weapons and importing firearms from America. He pleaded guilty to exporting ammunition. Surdhar admitted conspiracy to transfer prohibited weapons and ammunition.
The net began to close in on Edmunds and Surdhar when firearms experts at the National Ballistics Intelligence Service (Nabis) noticed that since 2009, particularly in the West Midlands, police were recovering an increasing number of antique handguns and specially adapted ammunition.
After Dunblane it became harder for criminals to source new handguns. One way around this is to use antique pistols with specially created ammunition.
The experts from Nabis realised that much of the ammunition they were recovering had been made with the same equipment. Typically four tools are used to create ammunition, each of which leaves markings, creating a sort of industrial fingerprint.
The Nabis experts and police connected members of the Burger Bar gang to some of the weapons and secured the convictions of 16 gang members. But the names of Surdhar and Edmunds also surfaced and led police to their doors.