Pistol found at loyalist's home 'was in a poor state'
A handgun located during a search of Lisburn loyalist Mark Harbinson's home displayed no signs of having been fired recently, a court heard yesterday.
The Makarov-type pistol was found wrapped in a yellow duster in a red plastic Family Circle biscuit box alongside a silencer and 28 bullets.
Harbinson is standing trial at Belfast Crown Court on three charges arising from a police search of his then home at Sheepwalk Road in Lisburn in December 2015.
Now living at Stoneyford Road in the city, the 51-year-old denies possessing the pistol, silencer and the rounds of ammunition in suspicious circumstances, and possessing both the handgun and the ammunition without holding a firearms certificate.
During the second day of the non-jury trial, a senior scientific expert who specialises in firearms said she carried out tests on the items seized.
Confirming the pistol was "in pieces" when it arrived at the lab, the expert said she didn't test-fire the weapon due to its poor state.
She told the court the weapon was corroded, the main spring was broken, the tumbler was missing, and "overall it wasn't in great condition".
She also confirmed the weapon was originally a blank-firing pistol used for gas and flares, but had undergone two modifications to allow it to discharge live rounds.
The forensic expert said both the weapon's broken spring and missing tumbler would need to be replaced for the gun to be capable of firing.
She said that there were "a multitude" of online videos showing a step by step process of how that could be done.
She said parts such as the broken spring could be procured from a deactivated Makarov and ordered online, and when asked what expertise would be required to fit a new spring, she replied: "In my experience, very little skill would be required to replace the main spring.
"It is a very simple job to carry out. It could be done with a standard screwdriver."
Replacing the tumbler, she added, would require "more skill".
But she said "there are videos of people on YouTube showing you how to do just that".
She also told the trial the model, which stopped being manufactured in 1989, "showed no signs of having been fired recently".
The trial has already heard that the Family Circle biscuit box underwent forensic examination and two of Harbinson's fingerprints were found to be on it.
His right thumbprint was found inside the box, while a print from his left middle finger was lifted from the bottom of the box.
Harbinson was interviewed around two weeks after the search.
When asked about the biscuit box, he initially claimed he had never seen it before.
When the fingerprint evidence was put to him, Harbinson said someone must have taken it from his house "to stash the item".
The trial continues.