Thefts trigger big weapons check

By Eugene Bingham

By Eugene Bingham

WELLINGTON - Weapons stocks at military bases around the country are under scrutiny as police try to uncover the scale of a racket involving gun parts stolen from the Army. Authorities yesterday began accounting for every gun and piece of ammunition to check for more thefts after the breach of security revealed this week at Trentham Army Camp. Stores of weapons in Auckland, Waiouru, Linton and Trentham are to be reviewed.

Police have also seized several private collections of military-style weapons from the Wellington area as part of their investigations and a gun shop was searched this week.

Detective Senior Sergeant Paul Berry, of the Wellington organised crime squad, said yesterday that four men had been charged with stealing and receiving gun parts from the Trentham camp's weapon-repair facility. Two of the men were soldiers and one was an employee of Serco Project Engineering, the private company contracted to manage Army weapon repairs.

Detective Senior Sergeant Berry said it was too early to say how many items were missing from the camp.

Gun control lobbyists yesterday questioned whether the military was doing enough
to keep its supply of weapons in safe hands.

"Security has got to be adequate because you can't have these weapons ending up on the black market," said Mike Meyrick, a spokesman for GunSafe.

"Their audit controls should also be better. I think some backsides need to be seriously kicked."

Mr Meyrick, a former Huntly policeman, said he recalled an incident involving guns stolen from the Hopuhopu camp, near Ngaruawahia.

A group of youths were charged with breaking into the camp's munitions depot and stealing guns.

The weapons were later found in an underground bunker the group had built.

The New Zealand Herald has also learned of other incidents involving weapons and ammunition stolen from the military in recent years, including the case of two civilians dismissed after being accused of stealing ammunition from the Navy's Kauri Pt stores in Auckland.

In other incidents, a Steyr rifle was stolen last year, and an automatic pistol was taken from the Linton camp in 1991.

The Chief of Defence Force, Air Marshal Carey Adamson, said last night that he was looking to tighten security measures.

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