A 34-year old man has been acquitted by a jury of firearms charges linked to the discovery of a pistol and ammunition in a block of flats in east Belfast.
Stanley Robin Matthews, from Tower Court, was accused of possessing a Browning pistol and ammunition suspicious circumstances, and also possessing the handgun without a firearms certificate, after the items were found during two searches at Dunlop House.
During a week-long trial held at Belfast Crown Court, the jury of seven men and five women were told that Matthews DNA was found on the items. The Crown contended that this proved Matthews must have handled the items, whilst the defence argued that the presence of the DNA was down to contamination by transfer.
The jury heard that police searched a flat at Dunlop House, in the Castlereagh Street area of the city, on March 27, 2014 on an unrelated matter. At the time, Matthews had been staying in the flat on a temporary basis, with his clothes kept in several bags
As one of the officers was leaving the flat following the search, he noticed one of the ceiling tiles in the hallway just outside the flat was loose. He reached up into the recess and retrieved a silencer.
A second search was conducted that evening along the basement corridor of the block of flats. More ceiling tiles were removed and a plastic bag was found in a recess. This bag containing a yellow cloth, and wrapped in the cloth was a Browning pistol and magazine, as well as a black sock which contained 24 bullets for the gun. The silencer was found to fit the Browning pistol.
Crime scene investigators were tasked to the scene, and several items were removed and forensically examined. Swabs were taken from various parts of the handgun as well as the silencer and Matthews DNA was present.
Whilst the Crown argued that the presence of his DNA meant Matthews must have handled the items, his defence team made the case he had no knowledge of the firearms and ammunition, and that the presence of his DNA was consistent with contamination by secondary transfer.
After the foreperson of the jury unanimously acquitted Matthews on both charges, he was told by Judge Gordon Kerr he was free to go.