Police have described it as 'the Breaking Bad of the gun world': A homely pensioner who turned his garage into an armoury, selling firearms and homebade bullets to dangerous criminals.
Paul Edmunds, who has been convicted of selling the weaponry after West Midlands Police linked him to a gun crime spike across the UK.
Ammunition made by Edmunds in the garage of his Gloucester village home was recovered by detectives at the scene of more than 100 shootings, including the Birmingham murder of Kenichi Phillips.
The firearms fanatic handcrafted bespoke bullets for use in vintage weapons, like late 19th Century St Etienne and Smith & Wesson revolvers, which he brought into the country legally as collector’s items, police say.
But he also imported prohibited guns from the US having falsely signed customs paperwork claiming they were antiques.
Edmunds supplied the guns and ammo to respected physiotherapist Dr Mohinder Surdhar – whom he met at a Birmingham gun fair in 2008 – who in turn sold them to crime gangs.
West Midlands Police arrested the 66-year-old in July 2015 at his Hardwicke home where officers found 100,000 rounds of ammunition in his caged armoury but more bullets and gun components strewn around his bedroom and attic.
A total of 17 guns imported by Edmunds from the US, plus 1,000 rounds of ammunition linked to him, have been recovered by police at UK crime scenes.
In April this year a jury failed to reach a verdict over whether Edmunds conspired to transfer prohibited firearms and ammunition – but he has now been found guilty after a trial at Birmingham Crown Court. His accomplice, 56-year-old Surdhar from Handsworth, West Midlands, had already admitted the same offence.
Edmunds was also found guilty on two counts of perverting the course of justice after West Midlands Police found evidence he doctored his firearms register to cover his tracks and also filed down components of his bullet making-press in a bid to distance himself from markings on casings recovered at crime scenes.
He was also convicted on two counts of Customs & Excise evasion – smuggling Colts and their component parts into the UK from the USA between 2009 and 2015, and taking 6,000 rounds of ammunition to France via Eurostar in the boot of his car in July 2014.
Surdah sold firearms to members of crime gangs (WMP)
For all Edmunds' mild-manned appearance, he was certainly known to police, having previously been found guilty of transferring three Thompson Contender pistols to a firearms dealer who was not authorised to possess handguns – and trying to get around gun laws by screwing a metal bar into the handle to lengthen it and change the classification.
Nonetheless, Edmunds and Sardah hardly fit the profile of the typical weapons dealer at first glance. It's little wonder that Phil Rodgers, who led the investigation into their crimes, likened the pair to TV meth dealers Walter White and Jesse Pinkman.
He said: “They were like the Breaking Bad of the gun world – on the face of it both decent men but using their skills and expertise to provide deadly firearms.
“But this was no TV drama – these were real weapons; real bullets; real victims. Their actions have had a devastating impact on communities by fuelling violent crime, leading to fear and bloodshed.
“Edmunds has an encyclopaedic knowledge of firearms. It’s not an easy task making obsolete calibre bullets to fit antique guns; it would have taken several days to make a box of 50. Surdar also had an armoury at his home and we believe Edmunds was teaching him the art of bullet-making.
“Our investigation has undoubtedly prevented many more firearms and countless rounds of ammunition getting into criminal hands…and in all likelihood saved lives.”
Edmunds – whose Home Office-approved firearms licence was revoked in September 2015 in light of the West Midlands Police investigation – imported 278 weapons from the US between 2009 and 2015, at a total cost of around £250,000.
Many were antique, obsolete-calibre revolvers – including St Etienne. 9.4mm Dutch and .44 Russian military revolvers dating back to the 1870s – for which he made ammunition from his Brook Cottage armoury in Bristol Road.
But he also imported Colt pistols from the 1950s following trips to Chicago, Las Vegas and Denver and declared them as antiques to Heathrow customs officials, even though only pre-1939 guns are attributed “antique” status.
One Colt revolver Edmunds brought into the country via Heathrow on 4 April 2011 was found by West Midlands Police officers just 25 days later in a bag hidden behind a block of flats in Selbourne Road, Handsworth.
It was loaded with bullets that ballistics experts at the National Ballistics Intelligence Service, or Nabis, proved were made in Edmunds’ armoury by matching microscopic lines on the casings with those on his ammunition presses.
He also smuggled a Colt Police Positive pistol into the country on 11 November 2013 that was used the following month to shoot dead a man at a Christmas night party in London’s Avalon nightclub.
The gun was found in a rucksack in London two years later – and forensic examination from test-firing proved it to be the same weapon used in the club killing.
And bullets found at the scene of both Derek Myers’ fatal shooting in Soho Hill in October 2015 and Kenichi Phillips in Ladywood in March last year were shown to have been handmade by Edmunds.
Surdhar bought more than 50 antique guns from a registered firearms dealer in Leicestershire from 2009-15 and passed many of them, complete with ammunition supplied by Edmunds or made on his own bullet presses, to jailed gang member Sundish Nazran.
Four were later recovered by police at crime scenes, including a revolver used in the aftermath of the 2011 riots to shoot at a police helicopter in Birmingham.
And examination of Nazran’s iPhone revealed WhatsApp message exchanges with Surdhar using code words to arrange gun sales: the pair used ‘watches’ to mean guns and ‘batteries’ for bullets. Surdhar also bought in excess of 30 revolvers from Edmunds, including prohibited handguns.
Nazran was jailed in 2015 for 13 years – but his sentence was increased to 17 years three months in 2016 after West Midlands Police appealed the length of sentences handed to the 32-year-old and 17 fellow gangsters.
Det Con Rogers, added: “Edmunds claimed he had no idea Surdar was passing the guns to criminals…we didn’t believe him and clearly neither did the jury.
“In interview he spoke candidly about his disdain for the UK’s strict laws on firearms and the handgun ban introduced in the wake of the Dunblane tragedy.
“And he’s used his position of authority in the firearms world to help him bring guns into the country undetected.
“It’s hard to overstate the significance of these convictions: we have cut off a major firearms supply chain and one that’s been used by dangerous men to commit serious offences.”
Around 400 rounds of ammunition originating from Edmunds’ stores were found by West Midlands Police at an address in Baltimore Road, Great Barr, on 19 November 2014. And an 1873 St Etienne imported into the UK in January 2010 by Edmunds was later uncovered by officers at an address in Kirby Road, Coventry, on 21 July 2012.
Head of Nabis, Detective Chief Superintendent Jo Chilton, said: “This was a lengthy, complex operation which commenced due to the work of Nabis and a ground-breaking investigation by one of our ballistics experts, Gregg Taylor. He noticed a consistent pattern of tool markings on ammunition found at the scene of many police incidents around the country. He worked closely with West Midlands Police who went on to lead the overall investigation.
“Our firearms experts at Nabis had noticed that since 2009, particularly in the Midlands, an increasing number of the police recoveries were of late 19th Century military hand guns for which there was no commercially available ammunition.
“I want to recognise and praise our ballistic expert Gregg’s painstaking work on this case; the evidence he presented during the trial contributed to the convictions.
“I also want to point out that the vast majority of registered firearms dealers in the UK are law abiding and give police no cause for alarm. However, Paul Edmunds played a dangerous role in providing firearms and ammunition for criminals and is now paying the price for that. His convictions send a strong message to anyone considering involvement in this type of activity that they will be identified and dealt with accordingly.”