Bedford Gun Dealers Jailed

28th August 2018

Two men have been sentenced to life imprisonment and 20 years three months behind bars respectively after the biggest single seizure of illegally held firearms and ammunition in the history of Bedfordshire Police.

Matthew Harwozinski, of Conduit Road, Bedford,and Ricky Garner, of Abbey Fields, Elstow, pleaded guilty for their role in importing and modifying dozens of weapons. These firearms have been linked to gangland shootings in Bedfordshire and elsewhere across the UK.

Between May 2017 and January 2018 Harwozinski, under a false name, bought dozens of blank firing handguns and more than 1,000 rounds of blank ammunition from the Czech Republic.

The weapons were then converted by Garner, an engineer at a metal fabricator factory, so they could fire modified live ammunition.

These weapons and the ammunition were then supplied to the criminal underworld. Estimates suggest the weapons and ammunition were sold for between £1,500 and £2,000. Their buyers would have had to return to Garner and Harwozinski for their unique ammunition.

The duo sold weapons to at least one gang based in Luton, while their guns and ammunition have also been recovered in London and the West Midlands.

The blank firearms are legal in the Czech Republic, but their possession is illegal in the UK given the way they work.

Harwozinski was given a life sentence at Luton Crown Court on Friday (24 August) and will serve a minimum term of 11 years eight months, minus the time he has already spent in custody.

Garner will serve at least half his sentence of 20 years and three months before he is considered for release on licence.

Sentencing the pair, Judge Andrew Bright QC said: "The offences to which each of you have pleaded guilty are of the utmost seriousness and this court has a duty to the public to ensure the sentence placed upon you reflects the incalculable danger your actions have caused to the safety of the public and those in the criminal underworld."

Ballistics testing found the converted weapons were more than capable of firing lethal shots. A number of the weapons were fully automatic and able to fire around eight bullets per second.

The converted weapons have been discharged in public on a number of occasions, endangering the life of innocent people, and on at least one occasion their use caused injury in circumstances amounting to attempted murder.

The weapons were used in at least three shootings in Luton last year, including two on the same night last December, during which bullets caused substantial damage to the McDonald's in Marsh Road and a number of vehicles.

Since the pair were arrested in January, there have been further incidents in the Metropolitan Police area and in Bedfordshire that have involved pistols and ammunition supplied by Garner and Harwozinski. These have come to light though forensic comparisons.

The operation was led by our Serious & Organised Crime Unit (SOCU), assisted by the Metropolitan Police (Op Trident), National Crime Agency (NCA) and the Eastern Region Special Operations Unit (ERSOU).

Detective Inspector Justin Dipper, from our SOCU, said: "A combination of good intelligence, proactive policing and sheer persistence on behalf of our officers has taken dozens of lethal weapons off the streets and stopped any further supply into Bedfordshire.

"The fact these weapons have been repeatedly fired in public shows the huge danger Garner and Harwozinski placed innocent people in, and we are glad the court has responded with such strong sentences for those involved in organised crime.

"Through this investigation, SOCU has demonstrated its ability to work with, and lead, other agencies in pursuit of dangerous criminals. The fact Bedfordshire's SOCU has been able to mount such a proactive and wide ranging operation is testament to the dedication and talent we have in the team."

Garner pleaded guilty to three offences, namely converting the weapons, manufacturing ammunition and possessing ammunition without a firearms certificate.

Harwozinski pleaded guilty to four offences, specifically to importing and converting firearms, manufacturing ammunition and possessing firearms with intent to enable others to endanger life.

Key events

July 2016 - Shots fired at four separate addresses in Bedford overnight. Operation Kruse investigations launched

April 2017 - Harwozinski sets up email for his alias on his iPad

June 2017 - Internet searches by Garner for lathes, mini lathes, blank firing pistols and how to convert them. Harwozinski believed to have purchased a lathe in Essex

8 September 2017 - Firearm recovered at Chandos Court in Bedford

3 October 2017 - Shooting at McDonald's in Marsh Road, Luton

27 October 2017 - Shooting in Romford in circumstances amounting to attempted murder. Subsequent forensics find the unique casings and bullets found at the scene match the weapons supplied by Garner and Harwozinski

19 December 2017 - Shooting through two car windows in Tower Road, Luton. At least one of the bullets fired had been fired from one of the pistols used in the previous McDonald's incident. Later that night there is another shooting at the Marsh Road McDonald's, where a shot was fired into the window of the restaurant. No one was injured in either incident

8 January 2018 - A search of an address in Cox Close, Bedford finds a firearm with traces of Harwozinski's DNA

15 January 2018 - Harwozinski observed leaving a property in Offa Road, Bedford. A firearm is found at this address with traces of Garner's DNA

21 January 2018 - Gun and ammunition believed to have been modified by Garner and Harwozinski found at an address in Ilford

23 January 2018 - Delivery observed to an address linked to Harwozinski. Packaging shows it was delivered to Harwozinski's alias

25 January 2018 - Warrants carried out at addresses linked to Garner and Harwozinski where a series of firearms and ammunition is found

27 January 2018 - Shooting in North London where ammunition consistent with that supplied by Garner and Harwozinski is found

27 March 2018 - Ammunition consistent with that supplied by Garner and Harwozinski is recovered in Birmingham

8 June 2018 - Firearm and ammunition consistent with that supplied by Garner and Harwozinski is recovered by the Metropolitan Police

18 June 2018 - Firearm and ammunition consistent with that supplied by Garner and Harwozinski is recovered in Barnard Close, Luton

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