Pensioner who hoarded arsenal of weapons avoids jail

The arsenal of firearms were found at two Colchester homes belonging to David Cole

The arsenal of firearms were found at two homes belonging to David Cole - Credit: Essex Police

A hoarder discovered with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition at two homes in Essex has avoided an immediate prison sentence. 

Police seized more than 500 firearms and ammunition from two homes belonging to David Cole, 74, in Copford and Colchester. 

Among the haul, described as "a collector's dream" by Judge Emma Peters, were revolvers, bayonets, World War One guns, shotguns and grenades. 

Ipswich Crown Court heard how police visited a home on London Road, Copford, near Colchester, on June 11, 2019, for a welfare check after a friend raised concerns. 

Officers entered the house and found the property in an untidy state, Hugh Vass, prosecuting, told the court. 

Mr Vass said it was immediately clear to officers that Cole was a hoarder and following a search, a number of firearms, knives and bayonets were discovered within the home. 

When Cole arrived home at the address around 5.15pm, he had a lock knife on him, and was arrested on suspicion of firearms offences and possessing a bladed article. 

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The pensioner told officers: "I used to follow the law until you took my shotgun." 

Police then searched another home belonging to Cole in Hugh Dickson Road, Colchester. He inherited the property following the death of his parents, Mr Vass told the court. 

Police seized more than 500 weapons from Cole's two homes

Police seized more than 500 weapons from Cole's two homes - Credit: Essex Police

Officers found the home in a similar state, and it took police several weeks to work through both properties, the court heard. 

Two prohibited smooth-bore shotguns were also found in the loft wrapped in plastic recycling bags from Christmas 1994, the court heard. 

Due to the large number of items discovered, only a small section were sent off for examination, Mr Vass said. 

In police interview, Cole did not answer any questions. 

Cole, who had no previous convictions, previously pleaded guilty to possessing a shotgun without a certificate, possessing a firearm without a firearms certificate, two charges of possessing a prohibited smooth-bore gun, and possessing a knife in public. 

Cyrus Shroff, mitigating, said there was no evidence to suggest any links to organised crime or any criminality. 

He said Cole had dedicated his whole life to collecting the items and had become emotionally attached to them. 

Judge Peters said she was satisfied that Cole had not been involved in any criminality but added that the main risk was if he was the victim of a burglary. 

Cole was handed a two-year suspended sentence on Wednesday and ordered to complete up to 30 rehabilitation activity requirement days. 

The judge also ordered the forfeiture of the entire collection and Cole must pay £2,000 in court costs.