Suffolk’s James Arnold was an obsessive hoarder who amassed the UK’s largest ever illegal weapons haul

The large scale police operation in Potash Road, Wyverstone.

The large scale police operation in Potash Road, Wyverstone. - Credit: No credit

In April 2014 police found the largest haul of weaponry ever discovered in the UK at the home of Wyverstone Parish Council chairman James Arnold.

The chaotic pantry at James Arnold's home

The chaotic pantry at James Arnold's home - Credit: Sam POWELL

Today, after the sentencing of Anthony Buckland, the full story can finally be told. Crime correspondent Colin Adwent reports.

An obsessive hoarder James Arnold even kept a collection of empty Coca Cola bottles in his cell at the maximum security Belmarsh prison.

The stockpile illustrates the mindset which may have led the 49-year-old to amass more than 400 weapons and a huge amount of ammunition at his Wyverstone home.

Detective Superintendent Steve Mattin, who was in charge of the inquiry, said: “Mr Arnold, and the way he lived his life, was very much a hoarder.”

James Arnold

James Arnold

Such was the firepower and explosive potential of the munitions found, one source said it was unlikely the damage would have been contained to Arnold’s property in Potash Lane had there been a fire at the premises.

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No one knows how long the weapons had been there or how Arnold managed to accumulate so many, or why.

What is known is the weaponry was discovered after a relative of the family went to Stowmarket police station on April 13, 2014, to alert police to a domestic assault at the property.

At the time Arnold’s life was apparently beginning to unravel as the ravages of terminal pancreatic cancer took hold.

Hidden weapons rooms

Hidden weapons rooms - Credit: Sam POWELL

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As Arnold’s condition worsened he appeared to become more agitated and stressed.

Chief Superintendent David Skevington said: “He had become quite controlling in later years in relation to who had access and who was allowed on the premises.”

Arnold had bought his four-bedroom end-terrace property as a repossession in June 1992.

He saw it as a renovation project and moved in December 1993.

Hidden safe door

Hidden safe door - Credit: Sam POWELL

The Stowmarket factory crane driver built an extension on the side of the property. It was there he created a hide to store the weapons he accumulated.Arnold also bought eight acres of land at the rear of his property and put portable buildings and caravans on it. Over the years he held clay pigeon shoots at his premises.

Arnold also built an 8ft high, 6ft deep, barrier along one side of his land.

Made of old railway sleepers it is thought it could have been erected as a purpose-built home-made firing range.

Bristol-born Arnold began handling guns when he was a child.

3D Map of Arnold's property

3D Map of Arnold's property

He became a registered shotgun holder in 1984 while living in Bacton, near Stowmarket.

Arnold got his firearms’ licence in 1986 and had memberships of shooting clubs.

When he was arrested he was entitled to hold 17 firearms at his home.

Anthony Buckland said he had known Arnold for more than 25 years and was asked during his trial if he ever suspected him of doing anything illegal, Buckland replied: “Good heavens no.”

An M16

An M16

Arnold was given six months to live after being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in February 2013.

He and his family visited Buckland to tell him of the terminal illness.

Despite being unwell Arnold continued to go to Buckland’s workshop and help at the Horsford Range in Norfolk.

However, as Arnold’s illness took hold and he outlived his diagnosis there were signs life was becoming more difficult.

Police found Arnold’s home to be in a dishevelled state with a mass of collectables and bric-a-brac.

Suffolk Constabulary’s firearms licensing manager Richard Kennett said: “We believe Mr Arnold’s life had deteriorated, whether that was to do with his illness or domestic circumstances...”

Following Arnold’s arrest Eddie Gale, vice chairman of Wyverstone Village Hall, said: “Jim is chairman of the parish council and he was, until he was diagnosed with cancer, my vice chairman at the village hall.

“He’s a great asset to the village. He’s a fairly quiet man and plays a great part in the running of the village.”

Arnold died on July 14, 2014, while on remand in Belmarsh prison.

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