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Historian facing jail time after US agents report him for buying WW2 machine-guns on eBay

'The CIA contacted the PSNI and next thing my house is crawling with cops'
David Park at his home in Omagh last week

David Park at his home in Omagh last week

Steven Moore

This is the mild-mannered war historian ripped apart by a judge after he was caught by the CIA buying sub-machine-guns on eBay.

David Park is facing a potential prison sentence after pleading guilty to five counts involving the possession of firearms without the appropriate certificates.

The 52-year-old from Omagh, known for holding war re-enactments across Ulster, had his house raided four years ago and police found a sub-machine-gun, two light calibre sub-machine-guns, a Luger pistol and a machine-gun magazine.

And speaking to the Sunday World just days after Judge Bernie Kelly spectacularly 'shot him down', the war historian revealed it was the CIA who gave her the 'ammunition'.

"I'd bought the deactivated gun on eBay from someone in eastern Europe and it was Langley who raised the alarm as the gun went through the post," says David, who is adamant the gun is completely unusable as a weapon.

"I couldn't believe it - the CIA had contacted the PSNI and the next thing my house is being raided and there's police crawling all over the house.

"I'm a war historian and I carry out re-enactments from the First and Second World Wars. I was putting together an exhibit of the Irish soldier and to make it authentic I had acquired helmets and other items and of course you need a gun.

"People really want to see items that are real and have been used in the war so I saw this relic of a machine-gun from 1942.

"I paid for it and it was posted out to me. Then the CIA in Langley somehow got involved."

David chats to reporter Steven Moore

David chats to reporter Steven Moore

Appearing at Omagh Magistrates Court last week, he held his hands up, representing himself. Judge Kelly laid into Park saying: "Which one of us wants to be reminded of the damage that short of machinery can do? I do not understand the fascination with guns or killing people or blowing them up."

He told us last Friday he was "shocked" and "devastated" at how his case has been handled dealt with.

"The judge was pretty rough on me, she wouldn't let me speak to explain so I never got my side across," he told the Sunday World.

"The guns were completely useless. One of them was from 1916 and had the barrel and bolts cut. You could never fire it.

"The problem is they keep changing the rules in Northern Ireland so when I bought the guns they were deactivated to the required legal spec back in the 90s but then they change it all in 2010 and they weren't up to that standard of deactivation.

"I've been taking these things round big events like the Portrush Airshow, for re-enactments at Castle Archdale and to charity events.

"I'm a historian, completely harmless. I had a dream of opening my own museum in my retirement because I have collected to much stuff over the years but now I'm devastated by the whole thing - I just want rid of it all.

"I'm finished with it. It's caused so much hassle for my family and tarnished my reputation so I don't want anything in my house that could get me into more trouble."

Lanchester submachine gun

Lanchester submachine gun

In court last Tuesday a detective constable explained Park was arrested by Bench Warrant that day which was issued after he left the jurisdiction ahead of the charges reaching court.

The court heard police conducted a search of Park's home in August 2017 after receiving information about a parcel delivered to his address.

The weapons were discovered and taken for examination as there were no deactivation or firearms certificates on record.

Forensic analysis showed the four firearms were not deactivated to the specified criteria introduced in 2010, although they were stamped as deactivated on a lesser level.

Officers were unable to interview Park at that time as he had left the jurisdiction and was living in Iraq.

He returned for a time in September 2019 and he told police he had bought the weapons on eBay for display purposes, describing them as "old, rusted and inactive as firearms".

He claimed to be part of a re-enactment group which displayed memorabilia and the firearms accompanied other items to attract visitors.

Park insisted the weapons were stamped as deactivated and he had certificates to show this but was unable to locate them and "was not prepared to go through the hassle of getting them to the required standard".

He suggested the seized firearms could be destroyed or given over to police for training purposes.

District Judge Bernie Kelly told Park: "I honestly don't know where to start. This is Northern Ireland. What do you think the reaction of the average member of the public would be to seeing sub-machine-guns parked outside premises?"

Park replied: "I'm a collector".

The judge responded: "You may well be, but if this is for the purpose of display to attract the public what do you think, in Northern Ireland the general reaction would be to seeing a sub-machine-gun?

"It would be fear. I've lived through all of it and you've lived through most of it and I can't believe you do not understand the connotations for heavy duty artillery."

She continued: "These are serious charges. You couldn't be bothered getting these decommissioned to the appropriate standards. Which one of us wants to be reminded of the damage that short of machinery can do?

"I do not understand the fascination with guns or killing people or blowing them up."

Judge Kelly decided to order pre-sentence reports before proceeding any further as "this is going to require more than a fine. In order for me to assess exactly where on the sentencing scale this fall, I need reports".

Park was remanded on bail to attend for sentencing on October 12 and Judge Kelly ordered the seized firearms to be destroyed.

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