Ex Army Captain On Trial Accused Of Stealing Weapons

26 November 2018, 15:16 | Updated: 26 November 2018, 15:18

SA80 rifle

A former Army captain stole automatic and sniper rifles worth tens of thousands of pounds from the Ministry of Defence and passed them on to other former soldiers and firearms enthusiasts, a court has heard.

Peter Laidler, 71, of Anson Close, Marcham, Abingdon, Oxfordshire, who is also a former police officer, is on trial at Winchester Crown Court accused of 13 counts of theft and one of handling stolen goods between 1998 and 2016.

Roger Smith, 60, of Bullfinch Road, Emsworth, Hampshire, a police officer with the MoD police, faces six counts of handling stolen goods.

Firearms dealer Adrian Bull, 64, of High Street, Devizes, Wiltshire, faces three counts of handling stolen goods and former soldier Stuart Pemberton, of Temple, Corsley, Warminster, Wiltshire, is accused of one count of handling stolen goods.

Matthew Jewell QC, prosecuting, said that Laidler had worked as the armourer for the MoD's Small Arms School Collection (SASC) at Warminster where the majority of the weapons were stolen.

Amongst the firearms stolen were SA80s, the Army's standard issue automatic rifle, Lee Enfield and Mauser rifles, the court has heard.

Mr Jewell said "Peter Laidler was employed at the collection as an armourer, he didn't have any authority to permit the disposal, destruction or sale of any weapons."

He added: "We the prosecution allege that Peter Laidler stole weapons and parts of weapons belonging to the Army during his time at the Small Arms School Collection.

"They include a number of SA80 rifles, that is an automatic rifle, and sniper rifles.

"We say he didn't have permission to take any of these weapons and treat them as his own but that is precisely what he has done.

"Some were sold on to other firearms enthusiasts, others were kept at his address where they were found by the police.

"Some were passed on to the defendant Roger Smith.

"He was trained in firearms in his time with the MoD police, he must have know the weapons were stolen."

Mr Jewell said that Pemberton received a UA 86A0570C sniper rifle sniper rifle which was valued in the charge at £50,000 and which Pemberton exchanged with another enthusiast who sold it for £30,000.

He said: "It is inconceivable that the Army would have permitted Peter Laidler to take such a weapon and treat it as his own and equally inconceivable Stuart Pemberton should receive it and subsequently dispose of it without knowing it was stolen."

Mr Jewell said that Bull received two SA80 rifles but it was not known when or where they had been stolen from.

The defendants deny the charges.