Thursday, 16 October 2008

John Haase, 59, and Paul Bennett, 44, arranged for weapons to be found behind the Cheers pub

Southwark crown court heard that John Haase, 59, and Paul Bennett, 44, arranged for weapons to be found behind the Cheers pub, in Aigburth Road, so they could link them to the rival gangs.Liverpool drug barons blamed a stash of weapons on the Ungi and Fitzgibbon families so they could get their own sentences slashed, a court was told.
The jury was told the Ceska gun, automatic pistol and ammunition was one of 35 goods, drugs and guns hauls the pair organised so they could tip off the authorities and curry favour with a judge.Prosecutors claim the men cooked up the scheme while awaiting sentence for drug smuggling.They provided so much information they received a rare royal pardon and served just 11 months of their 18-year sentences. Gibson Grenfell QC, prosecuting, said police uncovered more than 150 weapons, including sub-machine guns, AK47s and hand grenades and 1,500 rounds of ammunition following tip-offs from the pair.Haase told HM Customs and Excise, to whom the pair supplied information through their solicitor, that weapons and ammunition could be found in a Fiat Strada parked outside the Cheers pub. And Haase claimed Liverpool was just weeks away from erupting into gang warfare.Mr Grenfell said the weapons were clearly “being put” in the context of trouble involving “the two notorious criminal families in Liverpool, the Fitzgibbons and the Ungis.”“The defendants warned the authorities they expected a lot of trouble.”Mr Grenfell said the following month, Bennett advised the authorities to search a Volkswagen Polo parked in Park Street, Toxteth. Police found two sawn-off shotguns, a pistol and ammunition inside.He said once again, the two families’ names were mentioned and the Ungis were said to be using nearby pubs to plot their revenge for the recent murder of David Ungi.Mr Grenfell said Paul Cook, the customs officer who oversaw the men’s information, appeared at that point to express his doubts about the authenticity of the haul.
He quoted Mr Cook as saying: “Nobody seems to have missed them [the guns]. Nobody has noticed them. They [the police] have towed the car away and placed it in a garage. Why hasn’t it caused a stir?”Both Haase and Bennett denied having anything to do with the guns, Mr Grenfell said.He told the jury it was not the first time the men, said to be orchestrating the scheme from prison on illicit mobile phones, attempted to link the hauls to other organised crime gangs.Prosecutors claim the pair had five pistols and ammunition stashed in a car parked in Holyhead, Anglesey, so they could tip off authorities they were bound for Ireland and the IRA.
Prosecutors believe several of the guns and the bags they were stored inside are linked to the men’s co-conspirators.Mr Grenfell said fingerprints belonging to Haase’s wife Deborah, 37, were found on some of the bags.He said: “The information supplied about the IRA was completely bogus when we know the prints on those binbags.”He told the jury that prosecutors also believe another accused, Sharon Knowles, 36, bought the ferry ticket to Ireland designed to be linked to the seizure.
Haase and Bennett are said to have orchestrated the hauls between October 1993 and August 1995, while they were awaiting their sentences for drug smuggling.Haase and Bennett, both of no fixed abode, Deborah Haase, of Teynham Avenue, Knowsley Village, and Sharon Knowles, of Wadeson Road, Walton, all deny conspiracy to pervert the course of public.Deborah Haase also denies one charge of possessing illegal firearms and one charge of possessing illegal ammunition.


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