Biggest weapons cache found in the UK

Anthony Buckland19 February 2016

A 65-year-old man from Norfolk has been jailed after being found guilty of committing a number of firearms transaction offences. This follows an investigation into the discovery of a largest cache of weapons ever found in the United Kingdom at a property in Wyverstone, near Stowmarket.

Anthony Buckland, of Mill Road, Stoke Holy Cross, near Norwich, was convicted on Friday 18 December of the following twenty offences: Nine counts of selling/transferring a prohibited weapon; One count of selling/transferring a prohibited weapon (pistol); Nine counts of fraud by false representation; and one count of possession of a prohibited weapon (disguised firearm).

At Norwich Crown Court today, Friday 19 February, Buckland was sentenced to 6 years’ imprisonment.

Buckland was charged on 19 November 2014 following the investigation into the discovery of a significant quantity of weapons at an address in Potash Road, Wyverstone, on 13 April 2014, which became Operation Cannington.

This investigation began after officers initially attended the address in Potash Road to investigate an allegation of assault, subsequently arresting 49-year-old James Arnold, of Potash Road, Wyverstone, in connection with this allegation.

Police carried out a search at the property which ultimately uncovered a hidden room containing a huge number of weapons. The search of the house, outbuildings and eight acres of land lasted for 27 days and in total 463 firearms were discovered, along with explosives including a light anti-tank weapon and over 1000m of detonation cord.

James Arnold was initially charged with two counts of assault and four counts of possession of a prohibited weapon, but he died whilst on remand in prison before he was able to stand trial in respect of these accusations and the Crown Prosecution Service discontinued the case against him.

James Arnold

Enquires into the origin of the firearms found at Arnold’s home led detectives to establish that five of them were still registered as being owned by Anthony Buckland, who was a registered firearms dealer from Norfolk.

The scale of what was discovered in Wyverstone was quite extraordinary and ultimately turned out to be the largest cache of weapons held by an individual ever found in the United Kingdom.

Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin

Buckland was arrested by police at his home in Stoke Holy Cross on 16 July 2014 and this address, along with his attached business premises, were searched. A number of firearms were seized along with his firearms registers.

Further examination of the registers found that a number of sales had been made to a JJ Hambrose. Police enquires to establish who JJ Hambrose was concluded that he did not exist and had in fact been created by Buckland to show disposal for firearms in his registers, to disguise that he had been illegally supplying James Arnold and others unknown with them.

The nine counts of fraud relate to the fact that Buckland was also found to have converted firearms banned from private ownership (such as automatic or semi-automatic weapons), into firearms legally allowed to be owned by people with the appropriate licence. He then misled the buyers into believing they were purchasing firearms that they were legally allowed to own. 

Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin, the Senior Investigating Officer overseeing Operation Cannington, said: “The scale of what was discovered in Wyverstone was quite extraordinary and ultimately turned out to be the largest cache of weapons held by an individual ever found in the United Kingdom.

“This was a huge investigation for Suffolk Constabulary and involved a thorough search of the premises coordinated by specialist officers with the assistance of a number of partner agencies. This process took almost a month to complete and involved the deployment of considerable resources.

“Although we will never know the full reasons how and why James Arnold built up this huge arsenal of weapons, we were at least able to identify Anthony Buckland as someone dealing in illegal firearms as part of this investigation.

“I am pleased with the sentence handed down to Buckland today, which provides a positive outcome at the conclusion of one of Suffolk Police’s biggest ever operations. I hope it also serves as a warning to those involved in the illegal supply of weapons that this is a highly dangerous practice and if caught they face significant prison terms."

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