Watch: Birmingham gun gang caught near Spaghetti Junction with lethal weapons

The organised gang targeted Birmingham gun shops to get blank firing pistols to turn into live weapons
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Gang members Christopher Watson, 31, and Shaun Williams, 33, were caught red handed as they drove a white van near Spaghetti Junction in Birmingham with lethal weapons in the vehicle.

West Midlands Police working with the National Crime Agency (NCA) apprehended the pair on November 5 last year and found two firearms which had been broken down to convert into live weapons - along with 9mm ammunition.

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NCA officers then searched the Birmingham homes of the two men and their accomplice Perhys Neal, 31. They found a Clarke Metal Worker drill and fittings in Watson’s house on Nechells Park Road, in Nechells, along with debris from the base of the drill, and a small cannabis farm at Neale’s flat in Prince William Close, in Erdington.

The organised crime group members bought scores of blank firing handguns to convert into live weapons and have been jailed for a total of almost 14 years.

Where did the gang by their weapons?

National Crime Agency investigators established that Neale, bought around 45 legal blank firing Turkish Retay 84FS pistols from gun stores in the Midlands area, including shops in Birmingham and Tamworth.

With original lethal purpose guns being illegal and relatively difficult to obtain, criminals wanting firearms often seek converted blank firing weapons. Each of the weapons bought by Neale cost around £100, but would have been worth at least £2,500 on the criminal market once converted to fire live ammunition.

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Neale was driven by Williams on multiple occasions to buy the weapons using cash, which were then passed to Watson who himself bought one pistol. The barrels were drilled into to enable them to fire live rounds, using a drill and fittings, before the weapons were coated in heat resistant black paint to make the blue side of the pistols appear more authentic.

In one text message to his girlfriend, Neale said that he was getting four pistols converted, which would potentially make him around £9,000.

Birmingham gun gang caught converting blank pistols;  Perhys Neale; Shaun Williams and Christoper Watson Birmingham gun gang caught converting blank pistols;  Perhys Neale; Shaun Williams and Christoper Watson
Birmingham gun gang caught converting blank pistols; Perhys Neale; Shaun Williams and Christoper Watson

What happened at court and what have NCA officers said about the case?

The trio pleaded guilty at Birmingham Crown Court on 8 June, and were sentenced at the same court today (Tuesday October 11). Watson was jailed five years and three months, Williams, from Brookvale Park Road in Erdington, to four-and-a-half years and Neale to four years.

NCA Branch Commander Mick Pope said: “Illegal firearms feed serious violence, intimidation and coercion in our communities. It is chilling to think that the dozens of blank firing weapons this gang bought could have been destined for organised criminals as viable handguns.

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“Seizing such weapons, with the help of our partners at West Midlands Police, protects the public from this serious threat. I’ve no doubt more handguns would have been produced had we not intervened. The NCA works relentlessly to stop criminals like Watson, Williams and Neale obtaining firearms and endangering the public.”

Organised gun criminals Perhys Neale getting into car with Christopher Watson and Shaun Wiliams outside his houseOrganised gun criminals Perhys Neale getting into car with Christopher Watson and Shaun Wiliams outside his house
Organised gun criminals Perhys Neale getting into car with Christopher Watson and Shaun Wiliams outside his house

A spokesperson for the NCA added: “It is illegal to modify or adapt top or side venting blank-firing firearms into viable weapons. The NCA works closely with industry, trade groups and retailers to prevent their availability and use by UK criminals, as well as with multiple partners overseas to prevent them from entering the UK supply chain, either through lawful or unlawful channels.”

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