back to article 'Walter Mitty' IT manager admits to buying gun on dark web

A “Walter Mitty” IT manager from Milton Keynes who bought a gun on the dark web has pleaded guilty to firearms offences. Darren Hillyer, 38, posed as a woman supposedly wanting revenge on a paedophile ex-lover. He bought a Ruger LC9 9mm pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition from a dark web “gun trader”. In reality, the seller …

  1. Anonymous Coward
    Devil

    Not surprising

    IT managers are known to make poor security appliance purchases.

    1. Voland's right hand Silver badge

      Re: Not surprising

      Moron. He could have gone on an excursion to Ukraine instead. You can buy anything around those parts, up to a howitzer if you pay cash.

      1. knarf

        Re: Not surprising

        <quote>Moron. He could have gone on an excursion to Ukraine instead. You can buy anything around those parts, up to a howitzer if you pay cash.</quote>

        So credit cards are fine for small arms them?

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not surprising

          So credit cards are fine for small arms them

          Oh, credit cards are fine for everything. Just do not expect to have any credit left on it by the time you get back to wherever you have decided to spend the night. So those small arms may end up being a bit on the expensive side.

          Jokes aside. This is from 15 years back, but trust me around those parts nothing has changed (it may have only gone worse).

          After the collapse of the trade in the ex-Soviet block lots of enterprising individuals started doing "blockade runs" and ferry "goods of interest" like technical literature, spare parts, etc from Russia to the ex-soviet block. A person I know (and used to buy books from 15+ years ago) was driving his van with a load books somewhere around South Ukraine/Moldova towards the border. A guy comes out on the road with an AK47. He stops. The gunman says "20 bucks". Well, you pay up your road toll if you want to live.

          Next run, the blockade runner (who is an ex-army nuthead) stashes a handgun in the van, prepares the gun before entering the "interesting area". 20 km from the border a man comes out on the road again. This time with a Strela-2 launcher. The fact that it is AA does not matter, if it is fired at you from point blank range you are dead. The guy says "60 bucks". Our man grudgingly pays. The man with the Strela gives him the missile and says "Thank you, pleasure doing business with you". At this point instead of getting rid of the launcher he stashed it in a hidden compartment in the van.

          You probably do not believe me at that point. Well, I did not believe him either until 3 years later he was arrested for being drunk and disorderly and threatening his mother in-law with a Strela-2 in an apartment block. That was on the news at the time, so the article can be found if you search for it (I cannot be arsed).

          1. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

            Re: Not surprising

            That's a large hidden compartment!

          2. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Not surprising

            I was chatting to a guy in a pub in Basingstoke. His brother in law had bought some sort of soviet military jeep 4x4 thing for $150 a couple of years after the collapse. He got map coordinates to go pick it up (it was in the middle of nowhere) and off he went. As he started getting closer, he crossed onto a section of disused railway track followed that for a couple of miles until he came to an entire train load of the things. Rather than nick one to order, they'd nicked a whole convoy/delivery of several dozen of them

      2. Joe User
        Coat

        Re: Not surprising

        Moron. He could have gone on an excursion to Ukraine instead. You can buy anything around those parts, up to a howitzer if you pay cash.

        Yeah, but getting it through Customs might be a bit problematic: "Sir, is that a howitzer in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?"

        1. John Tserkezis

          Re: Not surprising

          Yeah, but getting it through Customs might be a bit problematic: "Sir, is that a howitzer in your pants, or are you just happy to see me?"

          Would be easy getting it through Australia, here they seem only interested in food and porn. Yep, porn.

        2. CaptainBanjax

          Re: Not surprising

          Nah its easy to get it through customs. Put it inside a plastic DAB radio...a phenomenally huge plastic DAB radio.

        3. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Not surprising

          Back in 1989 when I worked in Switzerland my boss took a last minute holiday. He returned about a week later and I asked why the sudden departure. "Well, you know that I collect military vehicles?" Yes I did, he had a lot of tanks that he drove around his farm. "I got a call from a contact in East Germany and he said if I was quick and had cash I could buy a SCUD launcher."

          I asked "How did you get it back home?"

          "I drove it".

          "How did you get it through the border post at Basel?"

          "I showed my passport, I'm a Swiss citizen they can't refuse me entry."

          I have no idea if the launcher was decommissioned. I suspect not.

  2. ZSn

    Luger

    Isn't that a Ruger lc9?

    1. Bloakey1

      Re: Luger

      Yes it is an LC9 but El Reg is not renown for its knowledge of firearms and one picture of a gun is equal to any other.

      Personally I would go with the MAC 50, Browning Hi Power or in my latter years the Beretta 92f.

      It would have been easier for this chap to have gone down to Lunnon and to have spoken with a few geezers down Morden or Mitcham way. He would then have had access to some of the finest firearms that the Balkan people ever produced.

      Failing that he could have come to my local pub had a few pints and then walked across the road and bought any pistol up to 7.65 legally.

      Muppet and a walt extraordinaire.

      1. Cardinal
        Joke

        Re: Luger

        Bloakeys El Reg colleagues described him as a “fantasist” and a “Walter Mitty type character”

        1. Bloakey1

          Re: Luger

          "Bloakeys El Reg colleagues described him as a “fantasist” and a “Walter Mitty type character”"

          I do not have any El Reg Colleagues !!! Go over to ARSSE and you will me find me chatting amongst my peers about military life in foreign climes, ooh and same nomenclature as well.

          My I.T. degrees seem a bit like fantasy, all that alcohol and all that free time, those were the days.

      2. austint

        Re: Luger

        "It would have been easier for this chap to have gone down to Lunnon and to have spoken with a few geezers down Morden or Mitcham way. He would then have had access to some of the finest firearms that the Balkan people ever produced."

        Was going to call you out on this ... and then remembered, seeing as I actually live next to Morden, that you're actually right on the money. Primarily Czech stuff, funnily enough...

        1. Bloakey1

          Re: Luger

          "Was going to call you out on this ... and then remembered, seeing as I actually live next to Morden, that you're actually right on the money. Primarily Czech stuff, funnily enough..."

          Ahh, well there you go, twas ever thus and the Krays were regulars in the pub opposite Morden cemetary. I live far away now but still have a house In Merton Park as a pension investment.

          CZ pistols, hmmm, they do a very good PPK.

          1. Anonymous Coward
            Anonymous Coward

            Re: Luger

            > I live far away now but still have a house In Merton Park as a pension investment.

            Then you're part of the problem with housing.

      3. Fruit and Nutcase Silver badge
        Coat

        Re: Luger

        Yes it is an LC9 but El Reg is not renown for its knowledge of firearms and one picture of a gun is equal to any other.

        They may have searched for "W̶a̶l̶t̶h̶e̶r̶ Walter PPK" and come up with a Blank

    2. Ben Boyle

      Re: Luger

      Probably an LCP - the LC9 is 9mm and that one clearly says it's a .380

  3. Sir Barry
    Pint

    The real reason

    He wanted the gun was to deal with the same idiot users causing the same idiot problems.

    Pint as it's Friday.

    Yay

    1. Little Mouse
      Devil

      Re: The real reason

      I loved the fact that he concocted a cover story that was more likely to get him into trouble rather than less.

      No "I need it for personal protection" for him, oh no! He went with "I need it to shoot someone I don't like." Sweet.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: The real reason

        " revenge . ....50 rounds of ammunition "

        50 rounds - plenty of practice or lots of revenge?

        1. Curtis

          Re: The real reason

          .380 comes standard in a 50 round box.

  4. Julian 8

    I bet MacPhee gets a longer sentance too - duty evasion

    1. Destroy All Monsters Silver badge

      An potential possession in what can only be described as Weapons Of Mass Destruction in a country that fears anything above the fruit knife.

      1. Bloakey1

        "An potential possession in what can only be described as Weapons Of Mass Destruction in a country that fears anything above the fruit knife."

        How dare you sir. A fruit knife that is smaller than the palm of your hand, is sheathed in a steel scabbard and securely locked with a Chubb lock and stored in a steel cabinet with various dead locks is perfectly acceptable.

        It is butter knives that are the menace and are the cause of death for more wealthy Dowagers than the police would care to admit.

        Ban them I say, think about the children growing up to be dowagers.

        1. Vic

          It is butter knives that are the menace

          <python>

          Well I'll tell you something my lad. When you're walking home tonight and some homicidal maniac comes after you with a bunch of loganberries, don't come crying to me!

          </python>

          Vic.

          1. g e

            Vic, are you there?

            </python>

        2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

          If butter knives are outlawed, ...

          "Vanishing culture, my eye! I forbid you to mention my name in the classroom . . . And you can tell that professor of yours, I've got a good mind to drive up to Amherst, with this pistol-handled butter knife on the seat beside me, and cut off his anthropological balls!"

          Aunt Harriet, in A.R. Gurney's play "The Dining Room"

          1. graeme leggett

            Re: If butter knives are outlawed, ...

            If they ban butter knives what am I going to use to rewire a plug when I can't find a screwdriver?

        3. Charles Manning

          Just hit him with the DAB radio.

    2. disgruntled yank Silver badge

      taxes and death

      Because England Expects That Every Man Will Pay His Duty?

  5. Pen-y-gors Silver badge

    Entrapment?

    Is entrapment legal in the UK? Anyway, he didn't 'buy a gun' he ATTEMPTED to buy a gun from a rip-off merchant. Does the dark web eBay provide any guarantees for recompense when ripped off by suspect dealers? Is it legal for the filth to offer guns for sale? Failing that can he sue the filth under the Consumer Protection Legislation as the goods were a) not as described and b) not fit for purpose.

    Bit of a prat though...

    1. JimmyPage Silver badge
      Thumb Up

      Re: Entrapment?

      Probably finely nuanced ...

      The key question is "would the defendant have acted as they did, if the police had done nothing ?"

      In this case it would seem the defendant would have - they seem to have dreamt up the idea of buying a gun, and if it hadn't been for the actions of the police, may very well have got one. A real one. And like people who want to be MPs, the very last person who should have a gun, is someone who wants to have a gun. They are - by definition - dangerous people.

      So in this case, big up for plod --->

      1. Bloakey1

        Re: Entrapment?

        <snip>

        "A real one. And like people who want to be MPs, the very last person who should have a gun, is someone who wants to have a gun. They are - by definition - dangerous people."

        <snip>

        Rubbish. Tell that to ex squaddies. hunters. Olympic shooters etc.

        Oh, and how dare you compare potential murderers, mass shooters and gun nuts to politicians, it is slander of the worst type. Paedophiles, rapists, spammers, PSI companies, lawyers and politicians all live in the same bucket as far as I am concerned.

    2. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Entrapment?

      Not sure this goes as far as entrapment as that would require the police to try to entice the suspect to buy the weapon rather than the suspect going looking for the weapon. Also he wasn't done for "buying a weapon" he was done for a conspiracy to import. You don't have to carry out the final act to be part of the conspiracy to commit that act.

      He could have had a defence of saying that he was planning to write a book about the 'dark web' and knew that there were not any real goods available on the dark web and was setting out to buy what he knows would end up being a fake weapon. Therefore he set out to buy a fake weapon and that is what was delivered.

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Entrapment?

        the VCRA makes buying a 'Realistic Imitation Firearm' illegal without a defense as put out by the act, for example a registered Airsoft skirmisher, theatrical production etc.

        Although deactivated guns are of course, not covered by this act and pretty much anyone can buy one.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: Entrapment?

          Its worse than that. I own a Umarex replica MP5 which fires steel BBs and is powered by a C02 cartridge. As its classed as an air weapon, i can walk into the shop and walk out with it. However, to replace my P90 replica plastic bb battery powered gun, i need to jump through hoops. The law is an ass in this regard.

    3. auburnman

      Re: Entrapment?

      "Entrapment" is poorly named; it's generally OK for plod to set a trap, provided they are not actively encouraging people to take the bait. So it's okay to set up a fake gun store, where Walter comes looking of his own volition, but not okay to say "you should buy a gun."

      The undercover "store" operators would have had to tread lightly though; they'd have to make sure nothing they said could be taken as encouraging the purchase. For example if they 'upsold' ammunition or tried to get Walter to take a different model to what he had asked for.

    4. danbishop

      Re: Entrapment?

      It sounds like he approached the officers (although unknowingly) in order to attempt to purchase the gun. The officers didn't approach him and attempt to sell it to him... so not really entrapment? He couldn't argue that he was unlikely to commit the offence otherwise, as he actively sought to do so in this case.

    5. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: Pen-y-bores Re: Entrapment?

      Wow, how do you manage to type with that chip on your shoulder?

      1. Bloakey1

        Re: Pen-y-bores Entrapment?

        "Wow, how do you manage to type with that chip on your shoulder?"

        He can type because he is a well balanced individual and he keeps a chip on both shoulders.

    6. SolidSquid

      Re: Entrapment?

      Entrapment generally involves the police actually pushing them to purchase whatever it was, it's a really narrow scope it covers. If they're just posing as a seller and the buyer contacts them then I don't think it's covered

    7. ZanzibarRastapopulous

      Re: Entrapment?

      Answering the question, "It is established case law that, while offering significant mitigation at sentence, there is no defence of entrapment in English law (R v Sang [1980] AC 402)."

      http://www.lawgazette.co.uk/law/the-law-regarding-entrapment/55972.fullarticle

      1. Anonymous Coward
        Anonymous Coward

        Re: Entrapment?

        Failing that, for mitigation, there's always "big boys made me do it"?

    8. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Re: Entrapment?

      Is entrapment legal in the UK? Anyway, he didn't 'buy a gun' he ATTEMPTED to buy a gun from a rip-off merchant

      It is not entrapment if the illegal activity is initiated by the suspect without any encouragement or suggestion from the undercover contact. That's why undercover operations always have to wait for the suspect to make the deciding move (which is the nervous part of a sting - if the suspect walks away they have no case).

  6. 2Fat2Bald

    I wonder what he wanted it for?

    If it was sport he'd get himself a pistal licence and join a club.

    Or just get an air pistol (they're legal) for target purposes.

    If it was just to wave around to impress people, he may as well have got an airsoft pistol (looks the same).

    If he just wanted to fire a pistol, he could join a gun club.

    How deeply, deeply embaressing for him. If I lived in the US I would probably get a gun for sport purposes. But the difference is it's legal there.

    1. <shakes head>

      Re: I wonder what he wanted it for?

      handguns are not illegal here, just that there is almost no justification for one that is excepted by the police, there are a couple of justifications but they are hard to come by and extremely limited

    2. JakHaxz

      Re: I wonder what he wanted it for?

      If he wanted a realistic airsoft gun he would need to get a UKARA membership.

      Which isn't hard but you do need to play at a registered site at least 3 time in under a year, and then the site would need to vouch for your membership.

      Otherwise he could only buy a two tone gun.

      Airsoft pistols do look the part but all the weights in the magazine and the slide spring is a lot weaker.

      He'd have to make sure no one ever touched or he be busted.

      1. future research

        Re: I wonder what he wanted it for?

        He'd have to make sure no one ever touched or he be busted.

        Growing u pin the UK I could not tell the difference between an air pistol or a real gun, but I would know he was lying about the next bit

        "Workmates said Hillyer claimed that he that worked for the intelligence and security services who had issued him a gun."

        If that was true, he would no brag out it, or even tell anyone, and definitely not show anyone a gun. The security services selection criteria is very strict and amounts to one very good candidates in almost every aspect failing one just one aspect. e.g. Giving away information to a potential women, can't find the exact link at the moment, but the role of a honey trap is detailed at http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/world-war-two/11110440/Agent-Fifi-deadlier-than-the-male.html

    3. g e

      Re: I wonder what he wanted it for?

      If he lived in the US he'd probably just go to Walmart.

      1. fajensen Silver badge
        Pint

        Re: I wonder what he wanted it for?

        If he lived in the US he'd probably just go to Walmart.

        Not *just* - 'tis not as easy as all that - there is a form one has to fill out, it costs USD 10 and one has to use one's own credit card. Prepaid CC or Cash won't do - for some reason. However, one can load up a shopping trolley's worth of ammo without any government interference ;-).

        I prefer the AirSoft option myself because one can - legally & safely* - shoot up friends, family and cow-orkers with those *many* times and enjoy their screams of pain *every* time.

        And one can hold those "guns" sideways and dual-wield and survive shooting oneself in the head (which is one of those things that can happen when one does a "John Woo").

        *) Proper safety goggles and boiler-suits is a must.

        1. Anonymous Coward
          Anonymous Coward

          Re: I wonder what he wanted it for?

          Depends on the state, here in sunny Arizona I just need to prove I'm a resident and be cleared by the usual FBI background check and I'm good to go.

          Which state requires a credit card in the purchaser's name?

  7. DrXym Silver badge

    Surprised it doesn't happen more often

    People complain about the darknet - about drugs, child porn, guns etc. but it also provides opportunities for cops to arrest people interested in those things. The police can set up their own website, or covertly monitor one which already exists, or take one over. And then dangle a few hooks and see what they catch.

    The net result is prosecutions. They also instil other users with a fear that maybe the darknet isn't as safe as its cracked up to be.

    1. perlcat

      Re: Surprised it doesn't happen more often

      My cynical take on the "Darknet" is that it's more like the Ashley Madison site, with maybe 6 or 7 actual sellers that didn't get the memo, hundreds of dumbasses that think they can actually buy, tens of thousands of "lookers", and any remaining "seller" or "buyer" is a government front or someone looking to entrap.

      A lot like the scene on "Office Space", where they looked up "money laundering" in the encyclopedia. If you want the term to describe these things in general, I suggest: "dumbasserie", and this in specific: "Dumbassnet".

      1. phil dude
        Coat

        Re: Surprised it doesn't happen more often

        I agree there is some more FUD for the pile - I worry (as I do) that in fact , those using the darknet properly, *aren't* getting caught and only maniacal muppets are.

        mod-up for the Office Space reference - that is a film that has some "flare" ;-)

        P.

      2. Sorry that handle is already taken. Silver badge

        Re: Surprised it doesn't happen more often

        Don't forget the scams. You might think you're buying a handgun, or a few grams of cocaine, but what turns up in the mail might not be what you were expecting.

  8. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Dark web not required

    Just browse your company's intranet 'for sale' page. I have seen guns advertised and cigarettes bought on various European trips. You never know what will turn up next.

    1. Hollerith 1

      Re: Dark web not required

      Oh, yes. I had to babysit the 'online classifieds' in one job and people just did not get that they could not sell booze and cigarettes from the boot of their car after a run to France on the 'bring and buy' space on the company intranet. Even more so could they not say 'I'm doing a run to France this weekend; anyone want booze or cigarettes?' And so on. Some were indignant when I said 'um, that's breaking the law'. Never had firearms, though. That would have been entertaining.

  9. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Hope he used his credit card or Paypal, at least then he can claim a refund as the goods weren't fit for purpose.

  10. Scaffa

    One of the key parts is he went to collect it.

    If something illegal arrives through your letterbox that in itself isn't proof you ordered it - otherwise all those firms getting letterbombs should've been arrested for "clearly purchasing explosives online".

    When he arranged to go and collect it from a middleman though, that defense went out the window.

  11. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    but officer

    it wasn't to shoot anyone, it is for insertion into a body cavity

  12. Rick Brasche

    so the only confirmed buy of weapons from this scary "dark web"

    is a fake seller created by the police?

    no one's catching real sellers yet?

  13. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Seems like a collosal waste of police time. It will probably get chalked up as a major terrorist threat averted though.

    1. RedCardinal

      Just in time for them to run up some new laws "for our protection".. :)

  14. BrazzaB

    IT manager a gun?

    Isn't that a normal BOFH defence for an IT manager?

    And he has shown his true knowledge of IT.

  15. Brian Allan 1

    Heck, in the US he could have bought the weapon of his choice at a corner store...

    1. Anonymous Coward
      Anonymous Coward

      Same as in Sweden then - as long as "his choice" is something they make in the Balkans, they will have it or know a bloke who can.

  16. john devoy

    Case appears very flawed

    We cant deny the guy is a moron but legally this whole case seems seriously flawed.

    1. He wouldn't have been able to buy the gun if the US authorities weren't pretending to sell it which should be entrapment.

    2. He has been charged under firearm laws when he isn't in possession of a firearm, he has a plastic toy, surely to make this charge stick they would have had to send him an actual gun.

    Under this system of law, if i advertise a nuke for £100 but only send him a broken down PS1, he is guilty of having WMDs because that what he thought he was getting...this may be good enough for the US/UK governments but it shouldn't be good enough for a court of law.

    1. Matt Bryant Silver badge
      FAIL

      Re: john devoy Re: Case appears very flawed

      "..... He wouldn't have been able to buy the gun if the US authorities weren't pretending to sell it which should be entrapment....." He went looking for a gun, not the other way round. That shows intent. He then made the purchase believing he was buying a fully-functioning and lethal weapon - that is a crime. he then tried to avoid detection of the importation by using a go-between, which is another crime.

      ".....He has been charged under firearm laws when he isn't in possession of a firearm, he has a plastic toy, surely to make this charge stick they would have had to send him an actual gun....." No, he thought he was importing a fully-operational and therefore illegal weapon, and he knew the act was illegal as he used a go-between in an attempt to avoid detection. It is illegal in the UK to possess a handgun (outside of a few very restrictive licences) and it is illegal to import a handgun without a proper and very restrictive licence. He showed intent to do both.

      Don't give up the day job, it seems the Law is not for you.

  17. Slx

    Glad to see they are actually engaging with "the dark web" and using simple, practical, old school policing methodology to catch people like that.

    Fantasist or not, guns are designed to kill people. Who knows what he might have done with it.

    It's a very necessary wake up call to anyone who might contemplate doing similar.

  18. Maty

    one of the rules of the internet

    (I forget which one) Men are men, women are men, children are FBI agents.

    Trusting that someone on Darknet is who he claims to be is the height of naivety.

  19. Anonymous Coward
    Anonymous Coward

    Incredibly stupid...

    This guy works in IT? What a moron.

    GCHQ are fighting ISIS, Al queda, Boko Haram and ze Germans all but one lot trying to buy guns to do a Mumbai, and he buys a gun over the wires.

    If you need a gun, you get your local bouncer, preferably ex forces to get you one, moron.

  20. martinusher Silver badge

    Real agents tend to be low profile

    Some years ago we had a couple of neighbors who were FBI agents. They were fairly non-committal about what they did, mostly paperwork in evidence collecting. I only saw the husband regularly in jeans and t-shirt doing the yard so I was very surprised one day when I was sitting in the cafeteria of a Federal building with my daughter and this smartly dressed person, complete with badge and gun, stops by my table and addresses us by name. It took a few seconds for it to click.

    Years later, after they'd moved back East, I mentioned them to someone I did volunteer work with who also worked for the agency. They knew these two and from her I learned that hubby, that mild mannered, 'just do paperwork' sort, was really one of the heavy duty dudes, a proper Mulder.

    The thing is, if anyone waves a gun about and claims to work for a secret -- or even not-so-secret -- agency, then they're lying or delusional. Real agents don't spread it around, its bad for business.

    (...and yes, we did get occasional visits from the Men In Black asking about the next door neighbors.... just watching the watchers. The truth is often stranger than fiction.)

  21. RedCardinal

    Ooer

    "People looking to obtain illicit goods and services under the supposed anonymity of the dark web continue to discover that they can in fact be traced and identified"

    said an LEA munchkin.

    Lol yeah but not actually traced via the dark web (which is what you're trying to imply) but because said goods have to be physically delivered (and the purchasing moron compromises himself with his cred card or postal address or real email address etc). Not quite the same thing...

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