Pair to be sen­tenced for try­ing to buy guns on dark web in UDA feud plot

Belfast Telegraph - - NEWS - BY JOHN CAS­SIDY

TWO Co Antrim men will be sen­tenced next week over a plot to buy guns from un­der­cover po­lice on the ‘dark web’ which was linked to a UDA feud in Car­rick­fer­gus.

Darren Ben­nett (23), of Church Road, New­town­abbey, pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to pos­sess two Glock pis­tols, 20 rounds of am­mu­ni­tion and at­tempted possession of co­caine and MDMA.

Thomas Mor­gan (42) from Burn­side Road, Doagh, pleaded guilty to con­spir­acy to pos­sess the firearms to “en­able an­other per­son to cause a per­son to be­lieve or fear un­law­ful vi­o­lence would be used against them”.

A third de­fen­dant, Scott Colin McMur­ran (26) from High­vale Gar­dens, Belfast, pleaded guilty to pro­vid­ing Ben­nett with £1,990 to as­sist him in buy­ing the Class A drugs.

Belfast Crown Court heard yesterday that Ben­nett used the dark web to firstly buy a Glock 19 pis­tol for £2k and later a Glock 17 for £990.

He was un­aware that the peo­ple he was deal­ing with — ‘Joe’ and ‘Danny’ — were un­der­cover po­lice of­fi­cers.

The court was told Mor­gan had di­rected Ben­nent to try and buy the guns, but at one point he pulled out of the deal fear­ing that they were be­ing “cheated” by the sup­pli­ers be­cause they could not test fire the guns be­fore pur­chase.

Judge Desmond Mar­ri­nan heard that it was at this point Ben­nett en­listed the help of McMur­ran to help him to put up the money, and he hoped to sell the guns to Mor­gan.

But de­fence coun­sel told the hear­ing that McMur­ran thought he was buy­ing drugs.

The court heard that the plot failed when Ben­nett turned up at York­gate shop­ping cen­tre “dressed in his py­ja­mas”, as pre-ar­ranged with the covert po- lice of­fi­cers, and was ar­rested.

Po­lice later re­cov­ered a par­cel which con­tained co­caine and MDMA with a com­bined value of £4,000.

It was ad­dressed to Ben­nett, who has a pre­vi­ous Class A drugs con­vic­tion.

The pros­e­cu­tion lawyer said the trans­ac­tion did not in­volve im­i­ta­tion weapons but “live, work­ing firearms” to be given to oth­ers.

The court heard the Glock pis­tols were “stan­dard is­sue to mem­bers of the se­cu­rity forces”.

De­fence bar­ris­ter Mark Far­rell said it was ac­cepted by Ben­nett that he faced “a pe­riod in cus­tody”, but he stressed his client’s ac­tions were “am­a­teur­ish” and “un­so­phis­ti­cated”.

Mor­gan’s de­fence coun­sel his client had tried to act as a “me­di­a­tor” be­tween the two sides in­volved in the feud in Car­rick­fer­gus but “with­out suc­cess”.

He told Judge Mar­ri­nan that Mor­gan had taken steps to pro­tect him­self af­ter be­ing in­formed by po­lice on three sep­a­rate oc­ca­sions that he was the sub­ject of death threats.

How­ever, the pros­e­cu­tion told the judge that it was not ac­cepted that Mor­gan had at­tempted to pur­chase the guns as “pro­tec­tive weapons”.

All three de­fen­dants are due to be sen­tenced on Mon­day.

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