Page last updated at 17:12 GMT, Wednesday, 27 August 2008 18:12 UK

Man convicted of converting guns

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

A man has been found guilty of turning replica guns into live weapons linked to more than 50 shootings, including the murder of Pc Sharon Beshenivsky.

Grant Wilkinson, 34, was convicted at Reading Crown Court of seven offences of converting and supplying firearms linked to at least eight murders.

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

Since the trial police have linked an east London killing to the factory.

Gary Lewis, 38, of Bourne End, Bucks, was cleared of all charges.

Jurors found Wilkinson guilty of seven offences, which included 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.

Pc Sharon Beshenivsky

Two charges against him of possessing a prohibited weapon were dropped.

Mr Lewis was cleared of all nine charges.

During the trial, jurors heard more than 50 shootings in London, Birmingham and Manchester were linked to the guns he converted and sold. Eight of these were murders, mostly in London.

One of the guns was used during 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 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 in November 2005.

Police said a ninth killing in Limehouse, east London, at the end of July was also being linked to the converted guns, but this was not presented by the prosecution in court.

Det Supt Gary Richardson said: "These guns have been linked to 52 shootings, including nine murders, eight of which occurred in London."

Using the name Grant Wilson, Wilkinson bought 90 blank-firing replica guns in July 2004, which he told the registered dealer in Northolt, Middlesex, were props for a James Bond film.


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

Guy Savage, of Sabre Defence Industries, said this seemed plausible as he had previously supplied Bond films.

Wilkinson then converted the guns in two outbuildings in the grounds of The Briars in Basingstoke Road, Three Mile Cross - a derelict property that Wilkinson took over and rented out to tenants.

Police said Wilkinson's "gun factory" was run on a "commercial scale" seldom seen in Britain.

The live weapons were later sold to criminals, prompting a noticeable rise in shootings over the coming years, the trial heard.

One of the recovered Mac-10 machine guns
As many as 40 Mac-10 submachine guns are still unaccounted for

Evidence of the guns was found at The Briars and also in a field in Juniper Lane, Buckinghamshire.

The trial heard 39 other converted guns were recovered from London, Birmingham, Southampton and the West Country.

As many as 40 of the Mac-10s are still unaccounted for and are believed to be on Britain's streets. Police have offered a 10,000 reward for their recovery.

Michael Dosunmu's mother, Shakira Dosunmu, said she was begging for anyone with information about the whereabouts of the guns to contact police.

"You don't know who is going to be the next victim," she said.

Wilkinson denied all nine charges against him, claiming in his defence that he was working for a man called Kevin Danaher, who was murdered in May 2006.

Speaking after the case, Det Ch Supt George Turner, of Thames Valley Police, said: "Although there is no Mac-10 problem in the Thames Valley, the gun factory at The Briars appears to have been responsible for 90% of Mac-10 incidents and shootings since 2004.

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