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INTERNET REPLICAS; _ Deadly weapons seized in raids.

Byline: LIAM MURPHY

THESE are the potentially deadly weapons seized by police after being imported over the internet by people in Merseyside.

The blank firing guns, which can be converted into firearms which fire live bullets, were confiscated in a series of dawn raids yesterday.

All 10 guns are thought to have been bought over the internet from a company in France.

They were tracked by police as part of a national investigation into the importation of replica guns, many of which are then modified at underground gun factories.

Seventy officers took part in yesterday's dawn raids at nine homes in Wallasey, Birkenhead, Formby, Southport and Bootle. They discovered 10 handguns, including six weapons in one house in Wallasey.

A hydroponics system which police believe may have been used to grow cannabis was also found in a home in Wallasey, along with what are believed to be cannabis plants. Crime Scene Investigators were brought in to gather evidence.

Acting detective sergeant Steve Christian from Wirral CID, who led the investigation, said: ``Whether or not these weapons were intended to be converted to fire live ammunition, they remain extremely dangerous. ''

He pledged the police would continue to target those who buy them and those who may be selling them on.

DS Christian added: ``There is no place for firearms or weapons of any kind on the streets of Merseyside. ''

Seven men aged between 21 and 56 were arrested in the raids. Three have been bailed pending further inquiries, two received cautions and two were released without charge.

A spokesman for the Association of Chief police officers said: ``This operation has been a result of close co-operation between ACPO, the National Criminal Intelligence Service, HM Customs and Excise and the Metropolitan police service working together to create around 500 target profiles of offenders throughout the country.

``It follows on from Operation Bembridge, which took place in June this year and saw the recovery of over 400 firearms and the arrest of 109 persons. ''

Mike Eveleigh, a former Merseyside police firearms officer, said the guns will now be tested by the Forensic Science Service to see how easily they could be converted to fire live ammunition.

Mr Eveleigh, who served with the police for 32 years and is now senior firearms officer for the British Association for Shooting and Conservation, said French laws allow certain weapons to be owned which have been outlawed in the UK.

He said to convert the guns, a lathe and a drill and some specialist knowledge would be needed.

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DANGER: Acting detective sergeant Steve Christian with recovered weapons Picture: TONY KENWRIGHT
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Publication:Liverpool Echo (Liverpool, England)
Date:Nov 12, 2004
Words:435
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