Belfast Telegraph

Wednesday 17 September 2014

Police clarify toy shop 'gun' claim

It is feared the parts could have been used to create the UK's first ever 3D printed gun

Police chiefs today defended raiding a toy model shop and claiming they may have found the UK's first ever 3D printed firearm.

The seizure, initially described as "a really significant discovery", was part of a much-heralded crackdown on organised crime, Operation Challenger, launched by Greater Manchester Police (GMP).

But hours later it emerged GMP may have jumped the gun, releasing a second statement about the raid in which Assistant Chief Constable Steve Heywood said: "We need to be absolutely clear that, at this stage, we cannot categorically say we have recovered the component parts for a 3D gun."

The 38-year-old pony-tailed shop-owner was released on police bail an hour after answering questions by officers over the alleged "gun" parts. He has tearfully protested his innocence.

Police say the raid was "not a fishing expedition" and carried out after they received "intelligence" about the shop.

The 3D printer and other "gun" parts are now being examined by firearms experts.

A press conference called by police today to discuss the success of the week-long Operation Challenger was largely taken up by questions over the 3D gun.

Mr Heywood told reporters: "This is a good news story about us tackling organised crime in Greater Manchester.

"The publicity was around Operation Challenger, a by-product has been the significant interest in the 3D printer."

Police raided the model-making shop in Manchester yesterday, confiscating the 3D printer, and hours later told the media that officers had seized what they suspected to be a 3D plastic magazine and trigger which could be fitted together to make a viable 3D gun.

But speaking on condition of anonymity, shop owner "Andrew" said the supposed trigger and magazine for bullets were actually parts of the printer - which he uses to make models.

Mr Heywood added: "What we are trying to do is determine, with forensic experts, whether they are component parts of a firearm.

"We have done what I think members of the public would expect us to do. We have turned up at a workshop and found some suspicious items.

"We will get these items forensically examined and make a determination with the CPS (Crown Prosecution Service) whether any offences have happened.

"We will go through a proper investigative process.

"We are just doing our job."

A source close to the investigation said a blueprint to make a gun has been recovered in the raid.

Andrew said he has made a toy model gun and claims officers took a model Smith and Wesson gun he was making - which is an "executive toy" and fires rubber bands.

In tears, he said: "I'm angry, disappointed and hurt. This could kill me, this could threaten the business.

"I was sat here yesterday morning and I saw police officers coming to the door. I just thought it was a customer. We have officers who are customers.

"They came in and said 'we have got a warrant to search this premises'.

"They accused me of making gun parts."

Presented with the "trigger" and "magazine", he explained that one was a spool and the other another part of the printer, to which he said the officer replied: "Oh! OK."

He was released on bail an hour later.

He went on: "Then I suddenly found out all this is going on in the news. They are off their heads. It's 100% bollocks! I'm not making anything illegal.

"I can understand them doing their jobs. I just think they have gone over the top.

"To do an investigation, fine. To label them as gun parts is absolutely ridiculous."

The printer, along with a laser cutter, makes anything from cake decorations to toy skulls for Goth teenagers.

Andrew added: "I think it's the future. If people want something, I can make it for them. Not many people do this, it's a niche market. I hope it's going to take off as a business.

"I'm not making anything illegal.

"I just want my stuff back so I can get on with my business."

Police said it would be "some days" before experts decided whether the parts found at the shop were actually components of a firearm.

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