Gang 'used rap lyrics to discuss guns'

Court sketch of defendants (left to right) - Harry Shilling, Michael Defraine, Jennifer Arthy and John Smale Image copyright Julia Quenzler
Image caption Defendants (left to right) Harry Shilling, Michael Defraine, Jennifer Arthy and John Smale

Members of a gang, accused of smuggling automatic weapons into the UK by boat, used lyrics from a song by rapper the Notorious BIG to discuss their arrival, a court has heard.

Words from Gimme the Loot were used in an encrypted message between Harry Shilling, 25, and Michael Defraine, 30, the Old Bailey jury heard.

They, along with two other defendants, are accused of illegally importing 31 weapons across the Channel.

All four deny the charges against them.

The other two defendants are Jennifer Arthy, 42, from Cuxton in Kent, and John Smale, 58, from Rochester, Kent. All four are on trial for gun smuggling and possessing firearms with intent to endanger life.

The guns - 22 assault rifles similar to AK-47s, and nine Skorpion sub-machine guns - were worth more than £100,000 and were brought into Kent from Boulogne in France on a 38ft (12m) cruiser, the MV Albernina, the jury has heard.

Image copyright NCA
Image caption More than 20 AK47-style assault rifles were seized

All had originally been deactivated but were reactivated before they, along with a large amount of ammunition, were smuggled up the Medway into Kent, arriving near Cuxton Marina on 10 August last year.

But the National Crime Agency (NCA) had the plotters under surveillance and swooped to seize the cache before it could be buried and then passed into the wrong hands.

The jury heard that in messages between Mr Shilling and Mr Defraine they used slang terms for drugs and money - "gear" and "paper" .

The Gimme the Loot lyrics were included in a message from Mr Defraine which read: "I'm ready to got this paper g you with me... my pockets looking kinda tight and I'm stressed yo munky let me get the vest".

The jury had previously heard about an email from Mr Shilling to Mr Defraine, saying "We now officially gangsters".

Image copyright AP

The Notorious BIG

  • Real name Christopher George Letore Wallace, born 21 May 1972
  • Grew up in Brooklyn, New York, where he was out selling drugs from the age of 12 until he discovered hip hop music
  • Also known as "Biggie Smalls"; BIG stood for Business Instead of Game
  • Released two studio albums which received critical and public acclaim: Ready To Die and Life After Death
  • Killed during a drive-by shooting in Los Angeles on 9 March 1997
  • I'll Be Missing You, a song recorded by Puff Daddy and Faith Evans in memory of their slain friend, reached number one in the UK and US charts later that year

Ms Arthy's partner David Payne, 43, who was also the skipper of the boat, has already pleaded guilty to the illegal importation of firearms along with two other men.

Prosecutor Duncan Atkinson QC has told the jurors that the smuggling plan was not disputed as Mr Payne, Richard Rye, 24, from Swanley, Kent, and Christopher Owen, 30, from Rochester, had already pleaded guilty. He told jurors that it was for them to decide who else was in on the plot.

The day before the NCA closed in on the gang, Mr Shilling, from Swanley, exchanged texts with someone known as "B", the court heard.

The prosecution allege the messages showed that the gang were prepared to supply the weapons to others with ammunition.

Image copyright NCA
Image caption The prosecution said there was a "large amount of working ammunition"
Image copyright NCA
Image caption Skorpion sub-machine guns were also among the haul

The court heard investigators had examined the data from a sat-nav device seized from a car associated with Mr Defraine, from Bexleyheath in Greater London.

The pre-loaded routes, the court was told, showed that the Audi had been to an address 40 miles (64km) from a firearms business in Slovakia that had dealt with some of the weapons seized.

On 11 August, the gang was seen by investigators unloading the cruiser, the jury heard, and a number of large heavy bags were loaded into a white van which was driven away by Payne. He was arrested shortly after - two other men were arrested on the boat.

Ms Arthy was arrested on her houseboat, which she shared with Payne and was moored close by.

The jury was also told of an alleged plan to bury the weapons so they could be retrieved later.

Mr Shilling and Mr Defraine were arrested outside a branch of DIY store Homebase where they had just purchased a number of spades and other tools, the court heard.

The trial continues.

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