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Friday, 25 January, 2002, 21:15 GMT
Owner of private arsenal jailed
Police removing weapons from Lee's home
Police removed hundreds of weapons from Lee's house
A gun collector who had a private arsenal of 301 weapons and 25,000 pieces of live ammunition in his home has been jailed for two years.

The collection amassed by Michael Lee, 56, of St Mary's, Teignmouth, Devon, included machine guns, sub-machine guns and a pump action shotgun, a court was told.

The find was the largest-ever seizure of guns and ammunition from one person made by Devon and Cornwall Police.

Lee was sentenced at Plymouth Crown Court on Friday after previously admitting six offences under the 1968 Firearms Act with another 18 taken into consideration.

Weapons hidden

Prosecutor Ann Redropp told the court that the weapons were found when police searched Lee's home in October last year.

At an earlier hearing it emerged that his collection had cost him around 25,000.

Ms Redropp said 140 of the weapons were securely held in various safes around the house and the others were stored behind fitted units.

Police seize the guns
The gun seizure was the force's biggest
"A visitor to the house would not have been aware of the vast number of weapons stored there," she said.

Lee was told by Judge William Taylor that he had an "unhealthy obsession" in relation to guns and ammunition.

The judge said that of the total number of weapons found, 159 were illegally held and 256 of them were "viable".

Most of the ammunition found could be used in the weapons Lee held, he said.

The judge, who cancelled Lee's firearm and shotgun certificates, said if his house had been burgled and ransacked a not insignificant number of these weapons would have found their way into criminal hands.

'No way out'

Defence counsel Sarah Munro said it was six months before his arrest, when Lee moved house from Kingsteignton to Teignmouth, that he began to realise how many weapons he had.

She said he saw "no way out" and if he went to the police knew he would end up in court.

At an earlier hearing at Exeter Crown Court,Lee's wife Caroline, 39, was given a 12-month conditional discharge when she admitted one charge of possessing a prohibited weapon.

After the case Detective Sergeant Ken Lamont said: "Whatever the circumstances of the acquisition of the firearms, the danger they pose to society is such, especially with the amount of ammunition involved, that such a sentence had to be imposed."

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