Army weapons officer stole £70000 worth of guns from his base and sold them to collectors, court hears

Army weapons officer stole £70000 worth of guns from his base and sold them to collectors, court hears

Former Army Captain Accused Of Stealing Weapons From MOD

A former Army captain stole automatic and sniper rifles worth tens of thousands of pounds from the Ministry of Defence (MOD) and passed them on to other former soldiers and firearms enthusiasts, a court has heard.

Peter Laidler, 71, who is also a former police officer, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of 13 counts of theft and one of handling stolen goods between 1998 and 2016.

Firearms dealer Adrian Bull, 64, of High Street, Devizes, Wiltshire, faces three counts of handling stolen goods and former soldier Stuart Pemberton, of Temple, Corsley, Warminster, Wiltshire, is accused of one count of handling stolen goods.

Matthew Jewell QC, prosecuting, said that Laidler had worked as the armourer for the MODs Small Arms School Collection (SASC) at Warminster where the majority of the weapons were stolen.

Amongst the firearms stolen were SA80s, the Armys standard issue automatic rifle, Lee Enfield and Mauser rifles, the court has heard.

Mr Jewell said "Peter Laidler was employed at the collection as an armourer, he didnt have any authority to permit the disposal, destruction or sale of any weapons."

Mr Jewell said: “Peter Laidler was employed at the collection as an armourer, he didnt have any authority to permit the disposal, destruction or sale of any weapons.”

Mr Jewell said that Pemberton received a sniper rifle which was valued at £50,000 and which Pemberton exchanged with another enthusiast who sold it for £30,000.

He added: “We the prosecution allege that Peter Laidler stole weapons and parts of weapons belonging to the Army during his time at the Small Arms School Collection.

Amongst the firearms stolen were SA80s, the Armys standard issue automatic rifle, Lee Enfield and Mauser rifles, the court heard.

“We say he didnt have permission to take any of these weapons and treat them as his own but that is precisely what he has done.

"Some were sold on to other firearms enthusiasts, others were kept at his address where they were found by the police.

“He was trained in firearms in his time with the MOD police, he must have know the weapons were stolen.”

He added: "Peter Laidler stole weapons and parts of weapons. They include a number of SA80 rifles and sniper rifles.

Mr Jewell said that Pemberton received a UA 86A0570C sniper rifle which was valued in the charge at £50,000 and which Pemberton exchanged with another enthusiast who sold it for £30,000.

Roger Smith, 60, of Emsworth, Hampshire, a police officer with the MoD police, faces six counts of handling stolen goods.

He said: “It is inconceivable that the Army would have permitted Peter Laidler to take such a weapon and treat it as his own and equally inconceivable Stuart Pemberton should receive it and subsequently dispose of it without knowing it was stolen.”

"He was trained in firearms in his time with the MoD police, he must have know the weapons were stolen."

Mr Jewell said that Bull received two SA80 rifles but it was not known when or where they had been stolen from.

Retired army officer Peter Laidler, 71, allegedly abused his position as armourer by stealing weapons from the Small Arms School Collection in Warminster, Wiltshire

A retired army officer stole weapons worth tens of thousands of pounds from the Ministry of Defence and sold them to dealers or gave them to fellow firearms enthusiasts as gifts, a court heard today.

Peter Laidler, 71,  from Oxfordshire, allegedly abused his position as armourer at an Army weapons collection facility for 18 years as he stole a series of expensive firearms – including a £50,000 UA 86AO570 C sniper rifle.

A court today heard three other weapons enthusiasts and former army personnel knowingly handled the stolen guns which were taken from the Small Arms School Collection (SASC) in Warminster, Wiltshire.

MoD police officer Roger Smith, 60, registered firearms dealer Adrian Bull, 64, and former soldier Stuart Pemberton, 51, are accused of handling the weapons as well as tampering with serial numbers.

Most of the weapons taken were SA80 rifles worth up to £7,500 while others include Lee Enfields worth up to £5,750 and an Accuracy International L96 worth £7,500.

Others in Smiths possession included a rifle with a bayonet and an antique German World War One Mauser rifle which was valuable and historic, making it inconceivable that SASC would part with it.

Former Army Captain Laidler allegedly also stole a number of weapon parts with which he built new weapons. 

Ministry of Defence police officer Roger Smith (left), 60, and registered firearms dealer Adrian Bull (right), 64, are accused of handling the weapons as well as tampering with serial numbers

Former soldier Stuart Pemberton, 51, is also accused of handling the expensive weapons and appeared at Winchester Crown Court

The court heard weapons recovered by police appeared to have been tampered with and new serial numbers engraved for authenticity.

Matthew Jewell QC, prosecuting, said some of the weapons were gifted by Laidler to the other defendants, who he is friends with.

Mr Jewell QC said: [Laidler] is a former police officer and also a former army officer, and has a keen interest in firearms as do the other defendants.

Pemberton is a former soldier who came into contact with Laidler when Laidler was based at the Small Arms School Collection.

Laidler stole weapons and parts of weapons belonging to the Army during his time at SASC, they included a number of SA80 rifles, sniper rifles and Lee Enfield rifles.

Some were sold on to other firearms enthusiasts, while others were kept by Laidler at his home address where they were found by police.

Among the expensive firearms were SA80 rifles worth up to £7,500 and a UA 86AO570 C sniper rifle worth £50,000. (Stock image)

Some were passed on to Smith, who was trained in firearms during his time with the MOD police and he must have known or at least believed that the weapons which went through his hands were stolen.

He added: SASC is an organisation run by trustees. Weapons which come into the collection are recorded. Likewise, every weapon which was disposed of or destroyed would be recorded.

The absence of any such record [of a weapons destruction], where the weapon is found outside the Army in civilian hands, would be evidence suggesting the weapon had been stolen.

 Laidler also stole Lee Enfield rifles and a UA 86AO570 C sniper rifle worth £50,000 during his 18 years as armourer. (Stock image)

Laidler was employed at the SASC as the armourer; he did not have any authority to permit the disposal, destruction or sale of weapons.

In 2007, firearms dealer Chris Goodwin purchased an SA80 rifle from Fultons for £3,500, of which £2,250 went to Laidler as he supplied the gun.

It is inconceivable that the trustees at SASC would have allowed Laidler simply to take and sell this weapon for that amount of money, let alone allow him to keep it for himself.

He also said Laidler gifted Smith with a WW1 Mauser rifle. He said: [Fultons] record it as being gifted to Smith in May 2009.

This weapon is of some value, and so it is inconceivable that SASC would part with a historic weapon of that value as a gift.

Laidler also had an iconic Lee Enfield Mark III rifle transferred to Smith which was formerly owned by a Lieutenant Colonel Findlay.

A UA 86AO570 C sniper rifle, which is typically worth £50,000, was also taken by Laidler. Other weapons stolen and handled by the defendants include straight-pull rifles worth up to £6,500.

No money changed hands. The rifle was a high value item and Pemberton was to exchange it for a different weapon via a firearms dealer, but the rifle he had received from Laidler was purchased in 2015 for £30,000.

It is inconceivable the Army would have permitted Laidler to take such a weapon and treat it as his own, and inconceivable that Pemberton should receive it and subsequently dispose of it without knowing or believing it was stolen.

Peter Laidler, 71, of Anson Close, Marcham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, denies 13 counts of theft and one count of handling stolen goods.

Roger Smith, 60, of Bullfinch Road, Emsworth, Hampshire, denies six counts of handling stolen goods.

Adrian Bull, 64, of High Street, Devizes, Wiltshire, denies three counts of handling stolen goods and Pemberton, 51, of Warminster, denies handling stolen goods.

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