‘It’s been deactivated - it will blow your hand off’ - court told of veteran’s advice to ex-Wisbech mayor over Second World War handgun
13:55 18 July 2014
A Wisbech councillor who kept a Second World War gun at his home for 25 years told a court today he believed it was deactivated.
Jonathan Farmer, 56, of South Brink, Wisbech, faces one charge of possession of a firearm under the 1968 Firearms Act, which he denies.
The gun, a Walther PPK hand gun dating from 1941, with a barrel less than 12in in length, was discovered during a police search of Farmer’s home on January 10 this year.
Farmer, giving evidence this morning at Cambridge Crown Court, said the handgun was a gift from a veteran of the Battle of Monte Cassino in Italy, who had taken it from a German officer.
Farmer told the court: “He said don’t try firing it Farmer. It’s been deactivated. It will blow your hand off.
“I took him at his word. He was an ex-Indian Army officer so I took literally what it meant.
“When I look down the barrel it was patently unserviceable.”
Farmer said he had oiled the gun maybe three or four times but that he never bothered to look down the barrel to see if it was blocked because he was never going to fire it.
Farmer said he kept hold of the gun not only for sentimental reasons but also because of his historical value as an artefact.
He told the court he has made enquiries to Wisbech and Fenland Museum in the past week and said the museum was interested in taking it.
Michael Proctor, prosecuting, asked Farmer how someone with more than 30 years of experience in the Territorial Army could not know the gun had not been deactivated.
Addressing Farmer, he said: “You knew full well it was a fully-functioning weapon.”
Farmer replied: “The TA doesn’t use deactivated weapons. I believed it was deactivated.”
Mr Proctor also queried why Farmer had not handed in the pistol during previous nationwide gun amnesties, but Farmer said he was unaware of them.
The case, being heard at Cambridge Crown Court, hinges on whether the handgun should be classified as a weapon or, as the defence argues, an antique (there is an exemption under the 1968 act for guns which are considered an ornament or curiosity).
The case continues.