A village stalwart and chairman of a Suffolk parish council hid hundreds of illegal guns in a secret room at his house, a court heard.

East Anglian Daily Times: Anthony Buckland who appeared at Norwich Crown Court. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAYAnthony Buckland who appeared at Norwich Crown Court. PHOTO BY SIMON FINLAY (Image: ARCHANT NORFOLK)

Former chairman of Wyverstone Parish Council, James Arnold, was arrested last year by police following reports he had more weapons than his firearms licence allowed.

A four-week search by police and bomb disposal specialists at his Wyverstone home subsequently found a hoard of machine guns, rifles, shotguns and ammunition in a concealed room accessed through a door in his kitchen.

Arnold, 49, was due to face several firearms charges but died of cancer in July last year.

Prosecutor Andrew Oliver said: “The firearms ranged from air rifles, pistols, handguns and shotguns to more serious weapons such as automatic machine guns.

“Some of those are considered simply too dangerous for members of the public in this country to be in possession of.”

Jurors at Norwich Crown Court heard from registered firearms dealer Anthony Buckland, 65, from Stoke Holy Cross, who appeared before the court facing trial for supplying some of the weapons.

Mr Oliver said Buckland had been trusted by police to deal with weapons responsibly, having started his business after leaving a role as an armourer in the military.

He denies a total of 20 counts, including selling prohibited weapons and fraud by false representation.

Records show he supplied 26 weapons to a man called JJ Hambrose, believed to be a fictitious character, between 2000 and 2013. Sixteen of the weapons were found in Arnold’s “hidden room”, Mr Oliver said.

He added: “Whether these weapons were to be used for illegal purposes or not, we simply do not know, but there must be a reason why he has created this fictitious person.”

Other weapons supplied by Buckland - including Russian Tokarev self-loading rifles - were not legal for sale in this country. A search of his workshop also found a Victorian shotgun disguised as a walking stick.

The court heard that some entries in Buckland’s gun register were false, including one gun “exported to South Africa” and another registered as being scrapped, both of which were found at Arnold’s house.

Buckland is also accused of selling weapons which he incorrectly claimed had been converted and made legal to other customers.

He has denied selling any weapons to Arnold, and told the court he had met JJ Hambrose at an auction in the 1980s and carried out regular business with him after seeing his registered firearms dealer certificate.

He told officers he would never sell a weapon to somebody who was not entitled to own it.

The trial is expected to last up to three weeks.