Man jailed over bullets in hand luggage

Grandfather hid bullets inside a shoe, triggering terror alert

Michael McMahon (64) was passing through security at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport when staff became suspicious. Photograph: Carlos Muina

Michael McMahon (64) was passing through security at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport when staff became suspicious. Photograph: Carlos Muina

Wed, Oct 23, 2013, 22:21

An Irish businessman who was caught with ammunition hidden in his luggage at Liverpool’s John Lennon Airport has been jailed for six years.

Michael McMahon (64) was passing through security on his way to Dublin when staff became suspicious after X-rays of his luggage triggered a terror alert. Inside a bag, concealed in a trainer in his luggage, were 13 live rounds and two spent bullets.

McMahon, who is in the construction business , was arrested and said he had no idea how the bullets got there. When he was searched £1,000 (€1,172) in cash was found on him.

His seven-bedroom farmhouse home in School Lane, Rainhill, Merseyside, was searched by police after the airport discovery on August 22nd and two illegal pistols and more bullets were discovered.

These included a Glock 9mm pistol hidden in a space he had carved out of a ceiling beam in his bedroom. It had one bullet in the chamber and more bullets were found with it.

A .25 American Raven Arms self-loading pistol was also found in a shoe in the hallway loaded with two bullets. A total of £30,000 was recovered from a safe, said Lee Bonner, prosecuting.

McMahon, who has nine grandchildren, told police he was travelling to Dublin to see his brother for “closure” relating to another brother who died 30 years previously.

He said he was “shocked and surprised” when the bullets were found and could not explain how they got into his luggage.

He pleaded guilty on the basis he may have placed them there but could not remember doing so.

He admitted buying the Glock 10 years ago, after another brother was abducted. McMahon said the 1950s .25 pistol belonged to his aunt, who left it to him when she died and was an “antique” though police found it to be in good working order.

He pleaded guilty at Liverpool crown court to seven charges including possession of a dangerous article in an airport, possession of ammunition without a firearms certificate and two charges of possession of a prohibited firearm.

Simon Driver QC, defending, described McMahon as a “man of the world” who had built a successful construction business and it was “difficult to swallow” that he was trying to smuggle bullets overseas.

He said numerous testimonial showed he was “a big-hearted man”. The father of five was a “hard grafter” who had made a “contribution to society”. He had never received a jail sentence and his family were “stunned and shocked at what had happened out of the blue”.

Judge Clement Goldstone told him, “You have not accepted full responsibility for your criminality. I have rejected your explanation and for whatever reason you have chosen not to tell the court the truth about how and why you were travelling as you were.

“To try to take live ammunition out of the country as I have found you did is serious enough from the point of view of the upheaval of security here, but the consequences of them getting into the wrong hands overseas cannot be overlooked. The fact that you were going to Ireland does not make your position more or less serious.”

As well as jailing him for six years he ordered McMahon to pay £2,000 towards the prosecution costs.