England

Warminster weapons trial: Pair guilty over stolen army rifles

Peter Laidler (left) and Roger Smith (right)
Image caption Peter Laidler (left) and Roger Smith were convicted after a retrial

A former British Army reservist has been found guilty of stealing live and deactivated firearms from a store at an army base following a retrial.

Peter Laidler, 72, of Marcham, Oxfordshire, took four rifles from the Small Arms School Collection in Warminster, Wiltshire, where he worked.

Roger Smith, 51, a former military policeman from Emsworth, Hampshire, was convicted of handling a stolen rifle.

Sentencing at Winchester Crown Court has been adjourned.

Image caption A deactivated sniper rifle was among the weapons stolen from the Ministry of Defence

In January, a jury cleared Laidler of 10 offences and Smith of a further five, but it was unable to reach verdicts on the remaining charges.

Laidler, a firearms enthusiast and former Territorial Army captain, worked as the collection's armourer, helping to maintain the weapons, the court heard.

He stole four rifles from the Ministry of Defence between 1998 and 2016.

He sold one of them, an L96 Accuracy International sniper rifle, for £10,000, police said.

The other stolen firearms were a deactivated version of the same model, and live and deactivated SA80 rifles.

Smith was found with a stolen SA80 rifle at his home, the court heard.

The Ministry of Defence Police said it had contacted 98 witnesses as part of an investigation which began in 2016.

Smith will be sentenced on 20 September, while Laidler will be sentenced at a date yet to be set.

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