Police clarify toy shop 'gun' claim
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.