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Mark Harbinson's fingerprints were found on a biscuit box which contained a gun, trial hears

Mark Harbinson leaves Belfast Crown Court after an earlier hearing

LOYALIST Mark Harbinson's fingerprints were located on a biscuit box which contained a gun, silencer and ammunition, a non-jury trial heard today.

As the case against 51-year old Harbinson was opened at Belfast Crown Court today, a prosecutor said the Makarov-type pistol was found during a police search of the defendant's home in December 2015.

Harbinson, from Stoneyford Road in Lisburn, has been charged with, and denies, three offences arising from the search - namely possessing the pistol, silencer and 28 rounds of ammunition in suspicious circumstances, and possessing both the handgun, and the ammunition, without holding a Firearms Certificate.

The court heard that when the self-loading pistol underwent a forensic examination, it was in "poor condition" and "could not be test fired".

On the first day of the non-jury trial, Judge Gordon Kerr QC was told that a search of property on the Sheepwalk Road area of Lisburn - which at the time was Harbinson's home - was conducted on Monday December 21, 2015.

The search of both the dwelling house and outbuilding at the rural premises was carried out between 2.20pm and 4.40pm, and located in a woodshed in one of the outbuildings was a Family Circle biscuit box.

Revealing the biscuit box was found in the upper part of the building, a Crown prosecutor said it was located on top of a stack of logs and was partially hidden.

The prosecutor said the silencer was "compatible for use" with the handgun, with the pistol itself in poor condition, which included rusted metalwork, rust inside the weapon and a broken main spring.

The tumbler engaging trigger bar and hammer were also missing and these component parts, according to the forensic expert, are "readily available on the internet or could be cannabilised from a similar pistol", and could be replaced by using a screw-driver.

In the aftermath of the seizure, the biscuit box underwent forensic examination, and two of Harbinson's fingerprints were found. His right thumbprint was found inside the box, while a print from his left middle finger was lifted from the bottom of the box.

Harbinson was interviewed around two weeks later, telling officers he had lived at Sheepwalk Road for around ten years, but had been absent for a period from 2009 to 2013.

He also told police he lived alone, but that people stayed over at the weekends and he had parties in the outbuildings.

During interviews, he said he had been threatened and intimidated and had taken security measures at his home which including installing four cameras around the property.

When asked about the biscuit box, he initially claimed he had never seen it before. When the fingerprint evidence was put to him, Harbinson said someone must have taken it from his house "to stash the item."

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