Police have been criticised after a gun discovered by a workman on the Armagh Road – just outside Moy – was “lost” for several days.
A workman excavating a site just off the main Armagh-Moy Road on Easter Monday made the startling discovery – believed to have been a .38 revolver along with 200 rounds of ammunition.
The items were discovered in a bag hidden between a sheet of asbestos and the tin roof of a derelict building
The worker immediately contacted police and, according to Aontú Councillor for Mid Ulster, Denise Mullen, was told to hand the gun and ammunition in to Armagh police station.
Earlier this week the PSNI claimed it had no record of a weapon and ammunition find on Easter Monday.
And it wasn’t until Thursday before a police investigation was launched at the site – almost two weeks after the find.
However, following representations from Councillor Mullen to the PSNI Ombudsman and the Taoiseach – through Aontú Leader Peader Toibin TD – the PSNI confirmed they had in fact received the gun and ammunition.
A PSNI spokesperson said: “Following an enquiry, preliminary checks by police did not locate the initial report, however, further checks revealed that the items passed to police were treated as ‘surrendered’ rather than a potential crime linked firearm.
“The circumstances relating to this and any further action required are currently being considered and police will fully cooperate with the Police Ombudsman’s Office in relation to the matter.”
The gun and ammunition has been sent away for forensic testing.
Councillor Mullen, speaking to Armagh I, said the whole debacle involving the gun, suspected of being used by the notorious Glenanne Gang, raises serious credibility concerns for the PSNI, especially among the nationalist community.
“The PSNI’s handling of the ‘lost’ gun has raised serious questions over their handling of this case, and others,” said Councillor Mullen.
“A gun thought to have been used by the Glenanne Gang in the murder of nationalists was handed to the PSNI. PSNI then claimed it wasn’t handed in.
“When I contacted the Ombudsman, and Aontu Leader Peader Toibin TD contacted the Taoiseach, the PSNI found it again. It took the PSNI four days to admit – after denying – that it had found the gun and ammunition.
“It is almost two weeks before they started to carry out any work on the site where the gun was found and the gun was handled by multiple people.”
Councillor Mullen questioned how it could take the PSNI two weeks to do anything when “there should be a paper trail”.
“How many other times have weapons been handed in and the same thing happened?” she asked.
“The PSNI also failed to seal off the site where the weapon was found, and the gun was handled by several people. How is that best practice? DNA evidence, or evidence from the site, may now be lost due to the – at the very least – negligent handling of the matter by PSNI.
“After all this, only now is the weapon and ammunition being subjected to forensic testing.”
She added: “I would also be concerned that this particular explanation of events seems to be well practiced. In 2016, a similar find was made in Tamnamore – just a few miles away – by workmen, but the PSNI said they knew nothing about it.
“However, the PSNI were later forced to concede a gun and ammunition had been discovered and they had known about it. Only in 2018 did the PSNI then say ballistics determined the weapon wasn’t linked to any crime at the time.
“However, how is anyone meant to have confidence in the PSNI when their mishandling and deceit surrounding the case was laid bare?
“The handling of cases is damaging any hopes of nationalist confidence in the PSNI.”