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Handgun found at Harbinson property showed no signs of being 'fired recently'

Mark Harbinson. Picture by Alan Lewis

A HANDGUN located during a search of Lisburn loyalist Mark Harbinson's home displayed "no signs of having been fired recently", a court heard yesterday.

The Makarov-type pistol was found wrapped in a yellow duster in a red plastic Family Circle biscuit box, alongside a silencer and 28 rounds of ammunition.

Harbinson (51) is currently standing trial at Belfast Crown Court on three charges arising from a police of his then home at Sheepwalk Road in Lisburn in December 2015.

Now living at Stoneyford Road in the city, Harbinson has been charged with, and denies, 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.

During the second day of the non-jury trial, a senior scientific expert who specialises in firearms said she carried out tests on the items seized during the search.

Confirming the handgun was "in pieces" when it arrived at the laboratory, the firearms expert said she didn't fire test the weapon after determining it was a handgun, and due to its poor state.

She told the court the weapon itself was corroded, the main spring was broken, the tumbler was missing and "overall it wasn't in great condition." She also confirmed the weapon was originally a blank firing pistol used for gas and flares, but had undergone two modifications to allow it to discharge.

And when asked if and how these items could be replaced, the firearms expert said she carried out research online and discovered "a multitute of YouTube videos showing a step by step process of how to replace anything ... there's a wealth of information on how to show a lay person how to replace this spring."

When she was asked about replacing the tumbler, the expert said "more skill" would be required, but said "there are videos of people on YouTube showing you how to do just that."

She also told the trial the weapon - which stopped being produced in 1989 - "showed no signs of having been fired recently."

The trial has already heard that in the aftermath of the seizure, the Family Circle 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 after the search. 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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