Dapper former office worker and vintage car fanatic John Smith does not have the look of a hardened criminal.
Yet after he left his green 1954 Wolseley Six Eighty unattended, armed police surrounded the vintage car when a passer-by reported the butt of a machine gun sticking out from under a cover on the back seat.
Despite Smith’s protestations that it was only a prop for a battle re-enactment society, he was taken to a police station and charged with possessing an imitation firearm in a public place.
Now, after five court appearances, the 1940s enthusiast has got back his beloved deactivated Steyre MP34 German machine gun but must keep it in a locked cabinet at home.
South Yorkshire Police requested the rare 1934 weapon and two other replica pistols be forfeited and destroyed but Judge Michael Murphy told Sheffield Crown Court said: “I don’t want historical artefacts to be destroyed and so I am not going to make an order to destroy these.”
Smith, aged 56, had packed the machine gun and its bayonet, valued at £3,000, two replica pistols, a Walther PPK, a P38 automatic and deactivated rounds of ammunition in his Wolseley car, parked in Hoyland a few miles from his Barnsley home.
He pleaded guilty to possessing an imitation firearm in a public place and received a 12-month conditional discharge.
After the hearing Mr Smith said: “I’m pleased with the outcome. It should never have come to court. I accept I was in the wrong but the police could have given me a caution or a warning.”