Plumber convicted for converting toy guns into lethal weapons

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Gun plumber: Evan Girdlestone was sentenced to seven years at Croydon Crown Court on Friday

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Gun plumber: Evan Girdlestone was sentenced to seven years at Croydon Crown Court on Friday

A south London plumber who converted blank firing guns into lethal weapons has been jailed for seven years and two months following a National Crime Agency investigation.

Evan Girdlestone, age 48, was arrested by officers from the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit on May 18 last year as he approached his parked car in Croydon.

Hidden under the passenger seat of the car was a converted gun with two magazines of ammunition.

Girdlestone, from Colliers Wood, was using an industrial unit in Wimbledon as a kind of factory, where he had a production line for the conversion of top-venting blank firers into lethal weapons.

NCA officers found converted weapons, imitation firearms, 174 rounds of live ammunition, a quantity of spent ammunition and multiple tools used to convert blank firers.

Girdlestone was in possession of four converted guns and four unconverted blank firers.

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Possession: two of the guns converted by Girdlestone

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Possession: two of the guns converted by Girdlestone

Girdlestone had also test-fired his converted weapons at the unit, shooting through phonebooks attached to a concrete wall.

Police found records of his sending a message to associates about being injured by a ricochet during one of his firing tests.

The AOU investigation began in April 2023 with assistance from the NCA’s National Firearms Targeting Centre, which develops the national intelligence picture on guns.

Over a series of appearances at Croydon Crown Court, Girdlestone admitted four counts of possessing firearms, three counts of possessing ammunition (174 rounds of varying calibres) and three counts of converting blank firearms.

He was sentenced on Friday.

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Illicit armoury: some of the weapons and ammunition seized by the NCA when they searched Girdlestone’s ‘factory’

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Illicit armoury: some of the weapons and ammunition seized by the NCA when they searched Girdlestone’s ‘factory’

Debbie Palmer-Lawrence, the head of the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit, said: “As an armourer, Girdlestone was reckless and a real danger to the public.

“He is now in the right place after excellent work by a variety of NCA teams to build the rock solid case against him. He had no choice but to plead guilty.

“Tackling the criminal use of firearms is a key priority for the NCA and we work with partners at home and abroad to do everything in our power to protect the public.”

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