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Man acquitted over pistol, silencer and ammo found hidden in apartment block

By Ashleigh McDonald

Published 21/05/2016

A man on trial for firearms charges linked to the discovery of a pistol, silencer and ammunition in a block of flats in east Belfast has been acquitted
A man on trial for firearms charges linked to the discovery of a pistol, silencer and ammunition in a block of flats in east Belfast has been acquitted

A man on trial for firearms charges linked to the discovery of a pistol, silencer and ammunition in a block of flats in east Belfast has been acquitted.

Stanley Robin Matthews (34), from Tower Court, was accused of possessing a handgun and ammunition in suspicious circumstances and possessing a weapon without a firearms certificate.

During a week-long trial held at Belfast Crown Court, the jury of seven men and five women were told that Matthews' DNA was found on the Browning pistol and ammunition.

The Crown contended that this proved Matthews must have handled the items.

However, the defence argued the DNA was there because of contamination by transfer.

The jury heard that police searched a flat at Dunlop House - where Matthews was living at the time - in Castlereagh Street in March 2014 on an unrelated matter.

As one of the officers was leaving the flat following the search, he noticed one of the ceiling tiles in the hallway just outside was loose.

After reaching up into the recess, he discovered a silencer.

A second search was conducted that evening, with officers scouring the basement corridor of the block.

More ceiling tiles were removed, and a plastic bag was found in a recess.

Inside the bag the police discovered the Browning pistol and a magazine wrapped in a yellow cloth, and a black sock that contained 24 bullets for the firearm.

The recovered silencer was found to fit the pistol. Crime scene investigators were called and a number of items were removed and forensically examined.

Swabs were taken from various parts of the handgun and the silencer and analysed, with tests finding Matthews' DNA on the objects.

While the Crown argued that the presence of the DNA meant the accused must have handled the items, his defence team made the case he had no knowledge of the firearm, silencer or ammunition.

They also claimed that the presence of his DNA was consistent with contamination by secondary transfer.

After the foreperson of the jury announced that Matthews had been unanimously acquitted on both charges, Judge Gordon Kerr told the defendant he was free to go.

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