Page last updated at 14:16 GMT, Thursday, 28 August 2008 15:16 UK

Life sentence for gun factory man

Grant Wilkinson
Grant Wilkinson converted replica guns into live weapons in a shed

A 34-year-old man who turned replica guns into weapons linked to more than 50 shootings, including at least eight murders, has been jailed for life.

Grant Wilkinson was convicted of seven offences of converting and supplying firearms, including one linked to the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky.

Wilkinson, of no fixed abode, adapted replica Mac-10 sub-machineguns in a shed in Three Mile Cross, near Reading.

He was sentenced to a minimum term of 11 years at Reading Crown Court.

Co-defendant Gary Lewis, 38, of Bourne End, Buckinghamshire, was cleared of all charges.

Wilkinson was found guilty of conspiracy to convert imitation firearms, conspiracy to sell or transfer firearms, conspiracy to sell or transfer ammunition, two counts of possession of firearms with intent to endanger life, and two counts of possession of ammunition with intent to endanger life.

Regrettably but doubtlessly, the roll call of death and serious injury will continue to rise
Judge Zoe Smith

Two charges of possessing a prohibited weapon were dropped.

He had denied the charges, claiming in his defence that he was working for a man called Kevin Danaher, who was murdered in May 2006.

But the jury at his trial was told that Wilkinson, a self-taught gunsmith, ran a weapons "factory" on a "commercial scale" seldom seen in Britain.

Passing sentence Judge Zoe Smith, said: "The scale of this criminal enterprise is unprecedented in this country.

"The roll call of deaths and injuries is horrific.

Pc Sharon Beshenivsky

"Some 30 to 40 of these weapons are still unaccounted for, and regrettably but doubtlessly, the roll call of death and serious injury will continue to rise."

Det Ch Supt George Turner, from Thames Valley Police, said it was too easy to change the fake guns into real ones.

"The conversion has been done by effectively members of the public with no apparent professional training," he said.

"They've been able to convert these weapons with relative ease using things that you can just buy from B&Q or just buy from the internet.

"That is concerning and anything that can be done to prevent that happening in the future is essential."

During the trial, jurors heard that more than 50 shootings in London, Birmingham and Manchester were linked to the guns Wilkinson converted and sold.

One of the guns was linked to an armed robbery in Bradford, which led to the death of 38-year-old Pc Sharon Beshenivsky in 2005 - although it was not the murder weapon.

The guns Wilkinson converted were also used in the murder of 15-year-old Michael Dosunmu as he slept at home in Peckham, south-east London, in February 2007, and the murder of music producer Richard Holmes in Chingford, Essex, in November 2005.

Police said a ninth killing in Limehouse, east London, in July, was also being linked to the gun factory.

Wilkinson had a history of crime with previous convictions dating back to 1995.

In 1996 he was jailed at Aylesbury Crown Court for four years for inflicting grievous bodily harm with intent.

Then at Reading Crown Court in 2002, he received another three years in prison for possession of drugs with intent to supply.


Neighbour Tony Humphreys shows the BBC round a shed where the guns were tested

Man convicted of converting guns
27 Aug 08 |  Berkshire

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