850 rounds-a-minute: Profile of 'concerning' gun that killed Elle Edwards in Wallasey

  • Blog and video report by Granada Reports correspondent Andy Bonner

When Elle Edwards was murdered outside a Merseyside pub on Christmas Eve, it sent shockwaves throughout the community. 

Not only because an innocent young woman had been gunned down in an area busy with festive revellers, but also because of how she - and some of those with her - were shot. 

The gunman, Connor Chapman, used a military-grade submachine gun known as a Skorpion. 

Capable of firing up to 850 rounds-a-minute, experts warn the Czech-designed pistol is part of a rise in dangerous weapons on the streets of the UK.

Elle Edwards' family have released new stills of her following the conviction of her killer, Connor Chapman. Credit: Family photo

On Merseyside, it's thought this type of firearm has been used in at least three fatal shootings.

It's also suggested that nine of the guns are in circulation in and around Liverpool - police seized one earlier this year.

An expert in organised crime told me that gunmen often use the weapon to "spray random bullets, knowing that at least one or two are more than likely to hit your target".

Dr Keith Ditcham, Senior Research Fellow of Organised Crime and Policing at RUSI, described the trend as "extremely concerning".

Dr Keith Ditcham explains his concerns over the type of gun used to kill Elle Edwards

The gun Chapman used has never been recovered.

A jury was shown a similar Skorpion by a forensic firearms scientist as part of the murder trial.

In a notable display, Andre de Villiers Horne demonstrated to jurors how the gun would be loaded and discharged.

He said he thought the weapon was in semi-automatic or single-shooting mode when it was used on 24 December.

"If the gun had been set to fully-automatic fire at a rate of 14 to 15 rounds per second, that would have been much faster than that," he explained.

"It’s also more difficult to control."

Police officers on duty at the Lighthouse Inn in Wallasey Village on Christmas Day. Credit: PA

It is a familiar scenario to Dr Ditcham; the former detective chief inspector now works for the Royal United Services Institute, an independent think tank which researches security issues including organised crime.

He said the weapon shows it was unlikely that Chapman's claims that he was a low-level drug dealer and not part of an organised crime group were true.

"This is serious weaponry and used by career criminals and organised criminals as well, not local street-level drug dealers.

"I would find that incongruous and difficult to marry that up with the the facts."

Dr Ditcham said a lot of organised crime is linked to drugs with criminals using increased violence in turf wars to gain control of the trade.

He added that more dangerous weapons are being used on the streets.

"The whole use of military-grade weapons on the streets in the UK creates a creates an image of fear, creates an image of dominance, creates a sort of violent image. 'Don't mess with us'.

"I think that's hugely attractive to the criminals, but extremely worrying to the police and to communities."

ACC Mark Kameen from Merseyside Police says the Skorpion is a 'frightening addition' in the fight against serious and organised crime

Dr Ditcham said authorities have seen the Skorpion appearing in the country since at least 2021 and there have been between 40 and 50 discharges, in Manchester, Birmingham and London as well as on Merseyside.

"I believe we could have been looking at a larger, much larger number of victims in the UK.

"We've seen drive-by shootings where people pull out alongside a house and just spray bullets at the front of the house.

"Again, not particularly caring who they hit inside or even whether they do hit someone inside."

Mark Kameen, assistant chief constable at Merseyside Police, told me they are actively hunting Skorpions and the criminals who have them.

"The National Crime Agency are looking for us at how they arrive into the country, where they are coming from, all the opportunities to cut off that source.

"The ones that have come into the country and come into the northwest region, we are working with the North West ROCU [Regional Organised Crime Unit] to identify where they've gone, who's got them, how we recover them.

"Here in Merseyside, we're acutely aware of what that problem looks like."

Dr Ditcham said it was "extremely concerning" that innocent people like Elle Edwards are getting caught in the crossfire of targeted attacks.

"I know the police are particularly concerned and obviously communities that are in these areas are concerned and quite rightly so as well."

But he added: "We need to put this in context.

Beautician Elle has been described as a 'bright star' by those closest to her. Credit: Family photo

"The use of firearms on the streets of the UK is is very, very low compared to other countries.

"That doesn't mean that we should be complacent, but I wouldn't want to start creating widespread panic either."

He admitted the authorities are "looking for the proverbial needle in a haystack" when investigating the smuggling of weapons into the country but he said that the sharing of intelligence gives the best chance of trying to combat the use of the weapons.

"The police, the National Crime Agency, other agencies work very hard to try and control the influx of weapons onto the streets, the use of the weapons as well.

"I wouldn't want to create panic but people need to be aware.

"They need to be able to, where they have information, feel confident that they can share that in confidence with the relevant authorities."

  • Anyone with information about illegal firearms should contact the police, or the independent charity Crimestoppers online or on 0800 555 111 to stay anonymous.

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