Jail for gang who ran firearms conversion workshop

Left to right: Shaun Williams, Perhys Neale and Christopher Watson Credit: National Crime Agency

Three members of an organised crime group have been jailed after they bought blank firing handguns to convert them into live weapons.

Peryhs Neale, 31, purchased around 45 legal blank firing Turkish Retay 84FS pistols from gun stores across the Midlands area, including Birmingham and Tamworth, National Crime Agency investigators established.

Neale was driven by Shaun Williams, 33, to buy the weapons with cash which were then passed to Christopher Watson, 31 who himself bought one pistol.

Watson and Williams were arrested on November 5, last year, after West Midlands Police officers caught them travelling near Spaghetti Junction in a white transit van.

Two firearms were found in the passenger footwell in their constituent parts along with a pack of 9mm ammunition.

Parts were found in the van Credit: National Crime Agency

NCA officers searched the three men’s homes in Birmingham. They found a Clarke Metal Worker drill and fittings in Watson’s house along with debris from the base of the drill, and a small cannabis farm at Neale’s flat.

The trio pleaded guilty at Birmingham Crown Court on June 8, and were sentenced at the same court on October 11.

Watson was jailed five years and three months, Williams to four-and-a-half years and Neale to four years.

Each of the weapons bought by Neale cost around £100, but would have been worth at least £2,500 on the criminal market once converted to fire live ammunition.

In a message to his girlfriend, Neale told her that he was getting four pistols converted which would likely make him £9,000.

Drill found in Watson's home Credit: National Crime Agency

The barrels were drilled into using a drill and fittings which would then allow them to fire live rounds.

NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope said: “Illegal firearms feed serious violence, intimidation and coercion in our communities.

“It is chilling to think that the dozens of blank firing weapons this gang bought could have been destined for organised criminals as viable handguns.

“Seizing such weapons, with the help of our partners at West Midlands Police, protects the public from this serious threat. I’ve no doubt more handguns would have been produced had we not intervened.

“The NCA works relentlessly to stop criminals like Watson, Williams and Neale obtaining firearms and endangering the public.”