National Crime Agency officers have uncovered a specialist factory in south London for converting blank-firing guns into lethal weapons using 3D printed parts.
As part of an intelligence-led operation, officers from the agency’s Armed Operations Unit arrested 47-year-old Evan Girdlestone, from Colliers Wood, at a location in Croydon on Thursday morning (18 May).
In his car they recovered what is believed to be a functioning converted weapon and magazines filled with 9mm ammunition.
Investigators then conducted a search of an industrial unit linked to Girdlestone in the Lombard Road area of Merton.
Inside they found an array of tools and machinery, including parts used in the manufacture of weapons and ammo, blank firers ready to be converted, more than a hundred rounds of live ammunition, around a thousand rounds of blank firing ammunition ready to be converted, and three potentially functioning converted weapons.
Officers also found several 3D printing machines suspected of being used to print component parts for converted weapons.
At one point the army bomb squad were called in to ensure the safety of the location after a quantity of suspected explosive powder was discovered.
The seized weapons are now being assessed and analysed by forensic experts.
After being questioned by the NCA, Girdlestone was charged with offences under the Firearms Act. He is expected to appear before Croydon magistrates today (Saturday 20th May).
Debbie Palmer-Lawrence, from the NCA’s Armed Operations Unit, said: “This was a significant operation which uncovered a suspected firearms conversion factory being used to convert blank-firing weapons into lethal guns.
“We know that these types of weapons are in demand by criminals. They are often used in acts of serious violence, as well as being used by crime groups to coerce and intimidate.
“This is why stopping them reaching the streets is a priority for the NCA.
“Our investigation continues and I’d like to thank Metropolitan Police and military partners for their support throughout the searches.”
20 May 2023