'Treasure-hunter' finds 16 handguns buried in a park
A major weapons haul in the Castlereagh area of Belfast has been described by police as the largest find in recent years.
Sixteen handguns and more than 800 rounds of ammunition were found hidden on National Trust land at Lisnabreeny Walk close to the Manse Road on Friday.
It is believed the buried weapons were discovered by a person looking for hidden treasure with a metal detector who alerted police. The road was closed between the Rocky Road and Garland Hill overnight as detectives from the Serious Crime Branch recovered the items.
Police say it is unclear whether the weapons, which were modern semi-automatic handguns, belonged to a paramilitary organisation or a criminal gang.
Given the nature of the area, some sources said they believed the guns belonged to loyalists, possibly the UVF.
The weapons have been taken away for further forensic examination which may shed some light on where they came from and if they have been used in any crime.
Alliance councillor for the area Geraldine Rice praised the quick actions of police and urged anyone with information to come forward.
"The police have ensured that the criminals who owned these weapons will not be able to use them to cause unknown damage to the community," she said. "I am deeply concerned that such a large collection of guns was left where anybody could have found them."
DUP Assembly member Jimmy Spratt said the weapons find was concerning as it was close to a school.
"In this area there are a lot children and a lot of people," he said.
"Thankfully, Lagan College has been off for the last two months."
The MLA said that in term time there would have been a significant number of pupils around the area from the school.
Police sources have described Friday's operation as one of biggest weapon finds in recent years.
PSNI Detective Superintendent Glen Wright said: "The recovery of these weapons has undoubtedly thwarted the attempts of criminals to inflict death, injury and misery on the community.
"Police are determined to work to protect communities from these threats and I would appeal to anyone who noticed any suspicious activity in the area of Glencregagh Road at the junction with Manse Road, known locally as Cregagh Glen, Castlereagh, to contact them on 0845 600 8000."