London and South East 'gang armourer' Thomas Keatley jailed

Thomas Keatley
Image caption Police believe weapons Keatley made would have been used by criminals

An illegal gunmaker who police believe supplied guns and ammunition to gangs across London and the Home Counties has been jailed for eight years.

Thomas Keatley, 28, of no fixed address, was sentenced at Maidstone Crown Court after being found in possession of a revolver.

Police also found gun parts and hundreds of rounds of ammunition at a Sussex garage linked to him.

He admitted three firearms offences and a drugs charge at an earlier hearing.

A spokesman for the force said when specialist armed officers stopped a car being driven by Keatley in Dartford. on 7 June 2013, he told them: "I know why you're here, it's in the glove box."

'Lethal weaponry'

When they opened the compartment they found a 19th Century revolver in a supermarket carrier bag.

A homemade gun, hundreds of bullets, equipment used to make ammunition and a USB stick containing internet guides on how to make handguns and automatic machine guns was discovered when a Crawley garage was raided by officers from Operation Trident and Sussex Police three days later.

The Met Police said bank account records showed Keatley bought the majority of the firearm items online from stores in 2012.

Image caption Gun parts and hundreds of rounds of ammunition were found at a garage linked to Keatley in Crawley

Det Insp Paul Dorey, Trident Gang Crime Command, said: "This is a significant result for Trident and the MPS together with Sussex and Kent Police.

"The seizure of the firearms, gun-making equipment and bullet cartridges has without doubt prevented lethal weaponry entering the hands of criminal networks operating in London and the Home Counties.

"On arrest, Keatley looked to hide behind firearm legislation to prevent prosecution. He stated he had purchased the antique revolver from a registered firearm dealer in Kent and as such, it was not a prohibited firearm.

"However, when the weight of evidence was compiled against him, he had no choice but to change his stance and admit to all firearm charges."

Keatley was jailed for five years for the possession of a prohibited weapon and three years for one count of attempting to manufacture a prohibited weapon. Both sentences will run consecutively.

He was also given a one-year jail term for manufacturing ammunition and a four-month sentence for the possession of cannabis with intent to supply, to run concurrently.

Sussex Police Ch Supt Paul Morrison said: "This was a significant seizure which can only make the streets of the country safer.

"It demonstrates how police forces can work together to disrupt serious criminality.

"We were glad to assist our colleagues from the Met in the search and recovery of the firearms and equipment at the garage."

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