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Friday, 22 January 2010

Michael Sammon, 49, was the head of a gang which converted hundreds of cheap flare guns into deadly weapons at an engineering factory in Ancoats

Michael Sammon, 49, was the head of a gang which converted hundreds of cheap flare guns into deadly weapons at an engineering factory in Ancoats, Manchester, before selling them on at a vast profit. He had "grandiose" plans to set up another factory in Spain.Many of the altered firearms have been traced to shootings, assaults and armed robberies throughout the country resulting in at least two fatalities, including the death of 12-year-old Kamilah Peniston who was accidentally shot in the head by her teenage brother, Kasha, in Gorton, Manchester. The weapon had been kept at the family home of their mother, Natasha, by her boyfriend.
More than 270 of the blank-firing alarm flare guns were bought in Germany for €50 (£43) each and smuggled into the UK by ferry. Once converted, the handguns fetched up to £750 on the black market. Most were recovered but 100 remain unaccounted for.
Sammon, known in criminal circles as Mickey the Fish, was convicted at Manchester crown court of conspiring to possess, import, modify and circulate the firearms, with 30 months to run concurrently for passport offences.Judge Martin Steiger said he was a ruthless and manipulative "merchant of death" who had squandered his talents on crime. The consequences of the trade in firearms, were "sadly evident on the streets of Manchester, day in day out".He said: "One hundred of the guns are still in circulation, waiting to do their lethal work to innocent victims."Five men were sentenced in 2006 for their part in the racket but Sammon, who had been on the run since 1997 after being convicted of a multi-million pound fraud, remained at large until June 2008.Factory owner David McCulloch gave evidence against the rest of the gang and received a reduced sentence of six years in November 2006. The court heard today that the operation could not have been executed without the engineering skill and expertise of McCulloch.Sammon used two fake passports, changed his name and changed his appearance several times before he was traced to a caravan park in Hampshire, where his girlfriend was the manageress.Fiona McIntyre, 42, a former pub landlady from Glasgow, was jailed alongside him for a total of 30 months for assisting an offender and passport offences.Said to be a "devoted mistress" to Sammon, although she was believed to be one of several, she had harboured him at Southsea Leisure Park while he was on the run and had showed a bogus passport to police when they came looking for him.
Sammon had criminal convictions dating back to 1976, but most related to dishonesty and none to guns. He evaded police for 11 years, despite his relative visibility - owning a number of shops selling tools in Derby, across the Midlands and more recently in Blackpool under the false name of John Eugene McDonagh. He vanished from police radar in 1997 when he was convicted of serious fraud. He was sentenced to four years in jail in his absence.Greater Manchester police described the gun-smuggling racket as one of Britain's largest. Detective Sergeant Jim Gray, of Greater Manchester police's Xcalibre organised crime unit, said: "It has taken a long time and a lot of hard work to catch up with Sammon."Detective Superintendent Geoff Wessell said: "These cases can be incredibly complex but we will not stop until everyone involved in the crime is made to face justice."


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