Cocaine snorting cabbie stashed guns after marriage break up

A taxi driver stashed an arsenal of guns at his home after running up cocaine debts when his marriage broke down.

Former teen tearaway Michael Lyons was convicted of guns, drug dealing and assault charges when he was a youth.

A court heard he turned his life around and managed to secure a taxi licence to help provide for his wife and two children.

But that all came crashing down and he became a wanted man after police linked him to three different firearms.

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The 33-year-old's DNA was identified on a stolen Army assault rifle, a sawn-off shotgun and a semi-automatic pistol.

Liverpool Crown Court heard "unknown persons" struck at the Merseyside Army Cadet Force centre in Queens Drive, Newton-le-Willows, between March 17 and 19, 2019.

Lee Bonner, prosecuting, said eight rifles with 1,000 rounds of ammunition were stolen during the burglary.

He said one rifle was recovered when Merseyside Police raided a property in Adam Close, Garston on June 20, 2019, when "occupants not before the court" were present.

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A 5.56mm caliber A2 model assault rifle, manufactured by Heckler & Koch exclusively for the British Army, was found with a serial number linking it to the burglary.

The firing pin had been removed and the drill practice gun had a solid barrel, meaning it couldn't be fired, but they could have been replaced and the other components were viable.

A forensic test revealed Lyons' DNA on multiple parts of the rifle and police raided his flat in Kirk Street, Kirkdale on September 13 that year.

Lyon was not at home and officers forced entry then found a sawn-off shotgun on top of a Nike holdall next to his bed.

A Heckler & Koch 5.56mm caliber A2 model assault rifle, stolen from a Merseyside Army Force Cadent centre in Newton-le-Willows and forensically linked to Michael Lyons after it was found at a property in Adam Close, Garston

The Remington 1100 semi automatic 12 gauge shotgun was in good condition and fully working and three live rounds were also in the bedroom.

However, these 9mm rounds weren't suitable for the shotgun and usually associated with semi-automatic pistols and submachine guns.

Mr Bonner said a small amount of cannabis and a machete was also seized, along with Lyons' driving licence and passport.

Again, his DNA was found on multiple parts of the shotgun.

Mr Bonner said police were informed by paramedics that a man had an injury consistent with a shooting at 2.48am on September 14, 2019.

He said there was no suggestion Lyons was involved in that shooting, but police attended the victim's home in Kirkby.

The court heard the house was "spattered" in blood, there was a bullet hole in a wall, and two black handguns with magazines were found.

One was a viable Bruni BBM GAP 9mm self-loading pistol, manufactured in Italy and designed to resemble a Glock 17.

A Bruni BBM GAP 9mm self-loading pistol, forensically linked to Michael Lyons and found at a house in Kirkby after a shooting

Lyons' DNA was recovered from this gun, but not on the other firearm.

Police found a discharged casing in the chamber of the Bruni and another four bullets, three blanks and a fourth with the plastic inset drilled or cut out and a steel ball bearing inserted.

The shooting victim's DNA was found on the BBM GAP pistol and the other weapon, a Kimar 9mm self-loading pistol.

Lyons was circulated as wanted but not arrested until November 19, 2020, when he gave a no comment interview.

He admitted three counts of possessing prohibited weapons.

Lyons has 10 previous convictions for 18 offences, including inflicting grievous bodily harm and having an air weapon in public, when he was 16.

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Mr Bonner said: "It's understood injury was caused by the air weapon."

When aged 17, he was convicted of possessing heroin, a prohibited weapon, and ammunition without a certificate.

Lyons had been stopped by police and ditched a black handgun with a magazine containing seven 8mm bullets.

His criminal record also features drug dealing and assaulting an emergency worker.

Phillip Astbury, defending, said Lyons had all three guns at the same time at his home and urged the judge to impose concurrent prison sentences.

He said Lyons took possession of the weapons at a time when his life had reached "rock bottom" and was "disintegrating".

A Remington 1100 semi automatic 12 gauge shotgun, forensically linked to Michael Lyons and found at his home in Kirk Street, Kirkdale

Referring to his "troubling" past as a youth, Mr Astbury said: "After 2010 the defendant was able to turn things around.

"He's proud for example, despite those convictions he was able to secure a licence as a taxi driver.

"He was able to work to contribute to the community, surprisingly as it may be, the committee must have been impressed with his efforts to rehabilitate himself."

Mr Astbury said Lyons "seized that opportunity", did community work, and provided financially for his young family.

However, he said: "It fell apart sadly as did his marriage, not least because of the medical issues."

He said these included mental health issues, now stabilised in prison thanks to medication, and epilepsy and seizures, which had seen him twice admitted to hospital from HMP Altcourse while on remand.

Michael Lyons

Mr Astbury said Lyons was also awaiting an appointment with a consultant regarding "cancer concerns".

He said his mum and dad were in court to support him and that regretful and remorseful Lyons was now back in phone contact with his wife and children.

Judge Robert Trevor-Jones said Lyons' DNA was "all over" the rifle and shotgun and on three areas of the pistol.

The judge added: "These are all potentially weapons of significant lethal capacity."

He said Lyons had previous convictions as a young man linked to "serious criminality".

Judge Trevor-Jones said: "I accept that no doubt your life fell apart when your marriage broke down back in 2017.

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"It seems you then descended into a spiral of drug – mainly cocaine – abuse, incurred debt and then people began to use your flat.

"You realised a holdall left there at least contained a shotgun and you left the accommodation.

"Clearly there was a real prospect of them being used by others in the furtherance of serious crime."

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Judge Trevor-Jones said Lyons handed himself into police and was "clearly not a well man".

He added: "I accept there was a degree of coercion as far as you were concerned when these weapons came to your property."

The judge jailed Lyons for five years and five months.

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Speaking after the case, Detective Constable Natalie Charlesworth of Merseyside Police Firearms Investigation Team, said: "It is pleasing to see that Lyons will be spending a significant length of time in prison, and that three more dangerous weapons are off the streets.

"Anyone storing, carrying or using firearms in Merseyside is putting the very communities they live in at serious risk.

"We will continue to take action to locate and seize firearms from the hands of those people, so that they cannot be used to cause fear, injury or worse. Lyons will pay the price for his actions, which could easily have had catastrophic consequences in our communities.

"Keep providing information and we will take positive action where harm is being caused, and continue our recent progress in reducing firearms incidents across Merseyside.

"You can provide information directly, or anonymously via Crimestoppers, which is completely independent of Merseyside Police."

Anyone with information on gun crime and the storage of weapons is asked to contact @MerPolCC, call 101 or @CrimestoppersUK anonymously on 0800 555 111.

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