MOD Oracle said:A gun stolen from a British military base or smuggled by troops from Afghanistan or Iraq has been used in the attempted murder of a policewoman, The Observer can reveal.
PC Rachael Bown was seriously wounded after being shot in Nottingham with a Browning 9mm pistol, senior firearms intelligence officers have disclosed. The shooting is one of 40 separate investigations under way into weapons thefts from army garrisons.
Officers at the new National Ballistics Intelligence Programme, the agency charged with tracking firearms around the country, has identified a number of 'serious crimes' involving military weapons that have fallen into the hands of criminals.
The shooting of Bown is the first evidence of their use on British streets. The 24-year-old probationary officer was off work for a year after being shot in the stomach at point-blank range as she confronted an armed burglar in Nottingham 20 months ago.
A senior police source said: 'Because we are operating in two war scenarios - in Afghanistan and Iraq - there are big opportunities for people to bring guns back in.' Officially, the Ministry of Defence admits that 12 military weapons were lost or stolen up to October this year, although police sources indicate this could be an underestimate.
The shooting of Bown in February 2006 provoked national uproar, renewing calls for a crackdown on gun crime. Nottingham crown court heard how she was left screaming in agony after being shot trying to arrest a suspected burglar, Trevon Thomas. In the seconds before the shooting, Bown received a radio call warning that an armed man was heading her way. She remained calm and told Thomas: 'Stop. Don't shoot. Stay where you are.' PC Martin Foster drew his CS spray and sprayed it towards Thomas's face as he ran past carrying a cocked 9mm Browning gun.
Thomas, 25, fired three times, hitting the probationary officer below her body armour with the second or third shot. The bullet entered her stomach and passed through her body. Bown returned to work last March after taking 12 months to recover from serious injuries and post-traumatic stress.
Thomas, from Trinidad, fled the scene, dumping the weapon in a wheelie bin. The find was a rare breakthrough. Firearms are rarely recovered from shootings and investigations are understood to be continuing into the origin of the Browning pistol.
DNA evidence against Thomas included the Browning gun with his handprint on it, a mobile telephone and a jacket he shrugged off as he ran. Tests established that the gun was British army issue and probably from Iraq. Army guns can be sold for thousands of pounds on the black market.
Thomas was found guilty of attempted murder and jailed for 30 years. During the trial it emerged that he had been living illegally in Britain for six years. He is due to be deported after serving half his sentence.
Military police have launched Operation Plunder to prevent soldiers smuggling weapons and ammunition from Afghanistan and Iraq into Britain. Vehicles and baggage are searched before troops leave for home.