A registered firearms dealer and antiques trader awaiting trial after being accused of illegally possessing banned pistols died in unexplained circumstances.
Ray Mills, owner of R&D Mills Antiques in Gravesend, had been charged with possession of three prohibited short firearms, contrary to section 5(1)(aba) of the Firearms Act 1968, and selling a primed cartridge case to a person without authority to buy it. He was reportedly found dead in Cobham, near Gravesend in Kent, during January.
A source told UK Shooting News: “I don’t think he was being held in prison at the time.”
The source added that the grandfather of ten apparently believed he was facing a custodial sentence.
Mills, a 69-year-old resident of Pinnocks Avenue, Gravesend, was arrested on 6th January. His case was connected to that of convicted criminal Thomas Keatley of Crawley, who was jailed for eight years in 2013 for illegally manufacturing pistols at home. Mills sold Keatley an antique revolver which was found on Keatley when he was arrested.
There was no suggestion in the sketchy and incomplete information released by the authorities that Mills knowingly sold antique firearms to criminals. No licence or identification is required in law to buy an antique firearm as a curiosity or ornament.
A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman confirmed that the Crown court trial against Mills had been discontinued due to his death. The Metropolitan Police refused to comment or even release details of the charges they laid against Mills, despite their own press officers having originally drawn public attention to the case. UKSN understands Mills was found in a favourite woodland spot.
A profile of RD & A Mills Services, the company behind Mills’ antiques business, on the Yellow Pages website and seemingly written by Mills himself, says:
My main areas of interest are deactivated and obsolete calibre weapons but I also have a vast amount of other militaria, memorabilia and accessories ranging from current to WW II. I specialise in inert ammunition.
Antique firearms may be freely possessed without a licence provided they are kept as “curiosities or ornaments”. This legal exemption was created to cover old blunderbusses, 19th century war trophies and the like kept hanging over fireplaces. Police forces have recently begun claiming that such antique firearms are being used in crime, without substantiating their claims.
The Daily Telegraph interviewed Mills in September last year, focusing on his trade in Second World War German militaria. He told the paper: “It’s not sinister at all, it’s a very good investment. You will never lose money if you buy a real item rather than a fake one. There are a lot of reproductions around nowadays.”
An inquest into Mills’ death is scheduled for 11th May at Gravesend Town Hall.
The charge relating to selling a primed cartridge case could be applied to inert ammunition. It is common for ammunition collectors to render live primers inert by soaking them in oil. Visually there is no difference between a live primer and one rendered inert by the oil process. UKSN understands that the only way to tell for sure whether a primer is live or inert is to chamber such a cartridge in a live firearm, pull the trigger and listen for either a click or a bang.