Another British gun control failure
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Man who found gun given wrong advice: police
London Evening Standard/London
A man who found a loaded gun linked to a gangland shooting was told by Scotland Yard to carry it across south London to a police station.
John Leary came across the weapon in a playground where it had been abandoned days after the crime. But the Met refused his request for a plain-clothes officer to collect it from his home.
Yesterday the force admitted major failings over the matter.
Disabled Leary, 51, found the weapon inside a plastic bag near his home on the Hemans estate in Stockwell. Speaking for the first time since the find, he said: “I was going to hang the bag on the railings until I felt its weight. When I looked inside there was a big revolver, a passport and some cash. It had a long barrel and I could see the chambers were loaded. There was no question of leaving it where kids play.”
Immediately after finding the revolver he was confronted by gang members who tried to get him to hand it over. But he refused and called police.
Officers suggested they send a patrol car to his house, but he refused for fear of reprisals from the gang members who had seen him carry the bag away. “I told them it was more than my life was worth,” said Leary.
Police then advised him to go to his local station, in Larkhall Park, Wandsworth Road, but it was closed. He had to travel 2.5 miles into Clapham to Lavender Hill police station, where an officer agreed to receive the weapon.
Leary was taken into the Met’s witness protection programme after the gang continued to target him, offering him £3,000 for the gun. They later subjected him to death threats and intimidation, forcing him to flee to his son’s home.
Detectives linked the gun to a gang shooting five days before it was found, and the inquiry was taken over by Operation Trident.
Leary — who still suffers leg injuries sustained in an unrelated attack a decade ago — later picked out two people at an identification parade.
But the Crown Prosecution Service ruled out a court case as the gun could not be linked to an individual.
The incident took place in 2005 but Leary said he had spoken out for the first time now because he had been “bitterly let down” by the police and Lambeth council.
“It beggars belief the police showed no urgency in collecting this gun after I’d put myself in danger. And the council were no better,” he said.
Lambeth accepted a police request to rehouse Leary, but have only offered a smaller one-bedroom flat.
They have also threatened to evict him because he took on the lease of his son’s home after spending more time there to escape the death threats.
Leary’s MP, Kate Hoey, said: “I was appalled by the treatment. He did a great public service and it is shocking he was not immediately moved out when the gang threatened him.”
An eviction hearing brought by the council last week at Wandsworth county court was adjourned after the judge criticised its housing policy.
A Metropolitan Police spokeswoman said yesterday: “We fully accept Leary was given the wrong advice. It was wrong to ask him to walk the streets with a gun in the bag, because it could easily have led to his own arrest.”
A Lambeth spokesman said Leary had been assessed as requiring only a one-bedroom property since his children no longer lived at home.