Machine guns, swords and a dagger decorated with a swastika – this is the astonishing cache of weapons seized by police from a modest terrace house in South Yorkshire.
A ‘lifetime’s collection’ of handguns, knives and even a sniper’s rifle are among the mind-boggling arsenal retrieved from inside Martin Johnson’s pebble-dashed two-up two-down.
Half a dozen rifles and guns were propped against a radiator in the 51-year-old’s lounge.
Rare items like knuckledusters and unusual firearms filled every room, and were hung on walls, displayed in cabinets, and piled onto shelves and in corners.
An ornate dagger carved with the Nazis’ swastika on its orange handle, and a machine gun mounted on a tripod, are among the weapons confiscated – so many they had to be laid in bundles on the floor and seats of a police van.
A hundred households were evacuated on Sheffield Road, Penistone, after the weapons, grenades, shells and ammunition were discovered.
It was initially feared some mortar shells may contain mustard gas.
Yesterday locals were allowed back to their homes, but bomb disposal experts were still at the house for a second day.
Police were called after neighbours became worried for the wellbeing of Mr Johnson, known to friends as Seth, who had not been seen for a few days.
Officers found Mr Johnson dead in bed – and then also discovered the haul of memorabilia from both the First and Second World Wars.
Police are not treating Mr Johnson’s death as suspicious.
Chief Inspector Andy Hodgkinson said an initial search of the property had revealed ‘a whole house full of stuff’.
“Following the discovery of the gentleman, we found a number of what appeared to be war munitions and weapons,” he said. “The occupant had clearly been collecting these things for an entire lifetime.”
Neighbours described Mr Johnson as a friendly man with ‘a big heart and larger-than-life character’.
The Britannia pub landlord Ian Haddington, who knew regular drinker Mr Johnson well, said: “He will definitely be missed by the locals.
“He loved collecting war memorabilia – he was fascinated by it. That’s all he used to do, that’s all he was bothered about. He wouldn’t harm anybody, he just loved collecting.”
Neighbour Colin Storey, who had sold Mr Johnson some Second World War medals and postcards, said: “Seth was so passionate about his collection. It was his thing.”
Chf Insp Hodgkinson said the Ministry of Defence has cleared out everything which was safe.
“But there are still some items they are not happy with,” he said. “They will be removing those more dangerous items, and will carry out a controlled explosion. We will then be bringing in officers to dispose of the firearms too.
“One of our first concerns was that some of the mortar shells indicated they might contain chemicals like mustard gas. Luckily, scans indicated that wasn’t the case.”
Chf Insp Hodgkinson said it is legal to keep such items – as long as they are certified.
“Unless weapons are certified they are classed as prohibited weapons,” he said.
“When officers get chance to search the house we will be looking for certificates, but it will be some time before we are clear to do that.
“There are some very valuable items in the house,” he added. “We are now working with the family, because they are keen to get some of the items back to them.
“But we can obviously only do that when we know for definite they are safe.”