AN ADDICT who was caught hiding a sub-machine gun in his fireplace had turned to drugs after being involved in a car crash which led to a woman’s death.

At Bolton Crown Court Christopher Haslam was jailed for eight and a half years at Bolton Crown Court after admitting possessing the Uzi sub-machine gun and ammunition as well as crack cocaine and heroin worth more than £100,000 and producing 18 cannabis plants.

Judge Richard Gioserano was told that the Uzi, which 45-year-old Haslam was storing for drug dealers, was in working order and was with a magazine of live rounds and other bullets.

Jailing him, the judge told Haslam: “It is obvious, of course, that this was not just a prohibited weapon but, in the wrong hands, one of the most dangerous kinds of prohibited weapons, ready to be used to devastating effect if needed.”

Juliet Berry, prosecuting, told the court how the weapon was found when police with a warrant raided Haslam’s terraced house in St Thomas Street, Halliwell, early on the morning of September 16.

Haslam was asleep in one of the bedrooms, but in another bedroom officers found 18 cannabis plants growing, estimated to have a street value of £18,000.

In a wardrobe in Haslam’s bedroom they came across body armour and in another wardrobe in the living room they discovered a safe.

When Haslam told police he did not have the combination number officers forced it open and found more than a kilo of heroin and crack cocaine inside.

Haslam was arrested and the search continued. In a void in the fireplace, officers pulled out a pillowcase which contained the machine gun and ammunition wrapped in a towel.

The gun had not been used but had six 9mm live cartridges loaded into a magazine, a further 16 9mm cartridges and two 0.38 cartridges suitable for use with a revolver.

The court accepted that Haslam, who has only one previous conviction for drugs offences, had been storing the weapon and drugs for others.

Darren Preston, defending, stressed that, until 1999, Haslam was a “decent, hard-working individual.”

But one day he was driving his work van when he collided with a car and one of the female passengers in the vehicle later died in hospital.

“He was devastated by it and he was filled with a terrible guilt,” said Mr Preston, who added that an inquest subsequently cleared Haslam of responsibility for the death.

Mr Preston said Haslam turned to drugs as a result of the tragedy and ended up getting into debt with dealers.

As a result he agreed to store their drugs and the package containing the gun.

“He knew it must have been a firearm, but precisely what, he did not know,” said Mr Preston.

“He did as he was told. This rather pathetic, wretched shell of a, once hard-working, proud man now found himself where he is today.

“It is an exceptionally sad tale. He is not a violent or dangerous man. He was just a weak and, some would say, stupid man. He was preyed upon by others.”

But Judge Gioserano told Haslam: “People must be deterred from storing drugs and firearms for serious criminals.”

The drugs, sub-machine gun and ammunition have been forfeited and will be destroyed.