Gun dealer 'conned pensioner and sold arsenal of weapons to criminal underworld'
A GUN dealer conned a pensioner out of his illegally held arsenal of weapons to sell on to the criminal underworld, a court heard.
A jury at Bolton Crown Court was told how 82-year-old Frank Rushton feared the haul of 34 handguns, shotguns and rifles he had collected over 60 years could fall into the hands of his son, who suffers from mental illness.
He was also worried that his estranged wife would report him to police for possessing the illegally held weapons.
Henry Blackshaw, prosecuting, told the court that, in the wake of the Dunblane and Hungerford massacres, the law had been tightened so much that it was virtually impossible for civilians to legally own hand guns.
So, in the early summer of 2010 Mr Rushton took his collection of 34 guns to The Lancashire Gunroom in Halliwell Road, Halliwell, where he asked firearms dealer Cyrus Shahabi-Shack to register the weapons so they could be sold legally.
He also asked him to deactivate — and then sell on — the rest of his guns, which could not be legally sold in working order.
The shop was also previously known as the Shooting Shack or Arms and Outdoors.
Mr Rushton’s collection consisted of 20 pistols or revolvers and a further 14 rifles and shotguns.
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Only three of the weapons were not capable of being fired. Sold legally the guns would be worth up to £6,000.
Mr Blackshaw said: ”It is no exaggeration to describe the collection as something of an arsenal.”
Instead of doing as the pensioner asked, it is claimed Shahabi-Shack lied to him, claiming police raided the shop and seized the weapons.
Mr Blackshaw told the court that Shahabi-Shack then sold the working guns to Louis Larsson, who passed them on to the criminal black market where they could have fetched as much as £25,000.
Suspecting he had been duped, Mr Rushton wrote an anonymous letter to police 18 months later and an inquiry was launched.
The jury was told how former gun shop employee Shaun Mullans confirmed the pensioner’s story, telling police how he had witnessed Shahabi-Shack breaking into the chained up suitcase, which contained the sidearms, with a hammer.
Over the next few days it was said Larsson became a regular visitor to the shop, examining the weapons, negotiating purchasing them and taking them away in black bin bags.
On one occasion, Mr Mullans saw Larsson drop off a large amount of cash. He was driven in an Audi A4 estate car by someone who reversed out of sight when he realised he had been spotted by the shop worker.
Larsson described him to Mullans as “a moody Scouser”.
Mr Rushton was identified as the writer of the anonymous letter by Mr Mullans, who remembered him as a regular customer.
Shahabi-Shack was arrested at his home in Lever Park Avenue, Horwich, in January, 2012, and told police that the weapons Mr Rushton had taken to him were not in working order and so he had destroyed them.
Shahabi-Shack, aged 57, and Larsson, aged 28, of Fossgill Avenue, Bradshaw, both deny three counts of conspiracy to possess firearms. In addition Shahabi-Shack denies possessing an illegal firearm.
The latter charge relates to a Ruger .38 revolver Shahabi-Shack obtained a firearms licence for, claiming it was to help him humanely dispatch wounded deer.
The licence restricted him to owning a weapon capable of firing two shots, but it is said Shahabi-Shack drilled out three blocked up chambers, converting the Ruger to its original five shot state.
The court heard that Shahabi-Shack was so fond of the weapon that he even named his dog after it and was said to carry it around with him in his pocket or a holster, using it to fire shots at the shop safe.
Mr Mullans told police Shahabi-Shack even said he wanted to put the gun in his employee’s mouth, claiming it would “turn him on”.
A jury of seven men and five women are due to hear evidence from several witnesses, including firearms trafficking expert Nicholas Dempsey, who is currently working in Colombia and is expected to appear in court via a video link.
The trial, which is continuing, is expected to last three weeks.