Man, 47, arrested after NCA finds south London 'weapons factory' making guns using 3D-printed parts

Officers found the gun factor on Thursday morning (May 18) Credit: PA Media

A man has been arrested after a National Crime Agency raid uncovered what is believed to be a specialist factory for converting blank-firing guns into lethal weapons using 3D-printed parts.

Evan Girdlestone, 47, from Colliers Wood, will appear before magistrates in Croydon charged with offences under the Firearms Act.

He was arrested in Croydon on Thursday morning and, in the car, officers from the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit recovered what was believed to be a functioning converted weapon and magazines filled with 9mm ammunition.

Investigators later searched an industrial unit in the Lombard Road area of Merton and found an array of tools and machinery, including parts used in the manufacture of weapons and ammunition, blank firers, more than a hundred rounds of live ammunition, around a thousand rounds of blank-firing ammunition, and three potentially functioning converted weapons.

Officers also found several 3D printing machines believed to be used to print component parts for converted weapons.

The seized weapons are being assessed and analysed by forensic experts.

A converted weapon and magazines filled with 9mm ammunition were seized Credit: National Crime Agency/PA

Girdlestone has been charged with possession of a firearm, namely a handgun contrary to Section 5 of the Firearms Act 1968 and possession of ammunition contrary to Section 1 of the Act.

He has since been remanded in custody after appearing before magistrates in Croydon on Saturday morning charged with offences under the Firearms Act.

No pleas were entered and he was remanded in custody to appear at Croydon Crown Court on June 16.

Debbie Palmer-Lawrence, from the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit, described it as a “significant operation” and said stopping converted weapons from reaching criminals was a priority for the NCA.

She added: "This was a significant operation which uncovered a suspected firearms conversion factory being used to convert blank-firing weapons into lethal guns.

"We know that these types of weapons are in demand by criminals. They are often used in acts of serious violence, as well as being used by crime groups to coerce and intimidate.

"This is why stopping them reaching the streets is a priority for the NCA.

“Our investigation continues and I’d like to thank Metropolitan Police and military partners for their support throughout the searches.”

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