Plans to ban the manufacture, import and sale of replica guns are being outlined by the government. Many replica guns can be converted quite simply to enable them to fire live ammunition. Pauline Peart was the victim of just such a gun.
by Chris Summers
BBC News Online
Pauline Peart was unlucky enough to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.
Pauline, 25, a customer account manager for Beneficial Finance, was sitting in her Audi TT sports car in a street in Tottenham on 10 March 2003 talking to a friend.
It is thought her killers, Maurice Miller and Nebra Bennett, either nursed a grudge against her friend, Yemmi Johnson, or mistook him for someone else.
Mr Johnson told the Old Bailey trial one of the men poked a gun through the window and fired once.
The bullet hit Pauline in the back, ripping through her heart and left lung. She collapsed almost immediately and would have been dead within a few minutes, the Old Bailey jury heard.
The gun's slide fell off after Pauline was shot and a second bullet was jammed in the chamber, preventing the killers silencing Mr Johnson, the only witness to the crime.
He dashed to a nearby house and rang 999 but by the time paramedics arrived Pauline was beyond saving.
Ms Peart died of a single gunshot wound
The gunman may have been aiming at Mr Johnson - Miller claimed Bennett fired the shot and was trying to settle a score because Mr Johnson had shown him "disrespect".
Miller told the court: "He (Bennett) said he was sorry the lady died because it was the man he wanted to get."
Police later recovered the murder weapon from Miller's girlfriend's home in Enfield, north London.
It was a BBM blank-firing handgun which had been converted to enable it to fire live rounds.
Miller claimed he had borrowed it and he told the trial he believed it had been used in a previous killing - that of 20-year-old Jade Alleyne in Wood Green in April 2002.
CCTV footage showed the killers moments before the shooting
A detective, who helped bring the case to court, said: "These guns can be bought perfectly legally but they can be converted using tools you can buy at a DIY shop. We have been trying for years to get them banned."
A Scotland Yard spokesman said 70% of firearms offences investigated by Operation Trident - which combats gun crime amongst London's black communities - involved replica guns which had been converted to fire live ammunition.
Sentencing the killers to serve no less than 18 years in jail, Mr Justice Astill said: "You both believe that carrying a loaded gun and the posturing which goes with it increases the esteem with which others hold you. But in our society it has the opposite effect.
"The carrying of a gun does not demonstrate power. It demonstrates that you are both despicable cowards who depend on the use of extreme violence to get whatever you want whether it be a possession or whether it be revenge."