A registered firearms dealer from Kent shot himself in the head while on “one last shoot” before he faced trial on charges of possessing prohibited pistols, a coroner’s court heard last week.
Ray Mills, owner of RD & A Mills, a militaria dealer who also traded in de-activated firearms, was arrested in January and charged with three counts of possessing prohibited short firearms (i.e. pistols) and one count of selling a primed cartridge case to a person without authority to possess it. An inquest held in Kent heard that the charges were brought by Operation Trident, a Met Police unit dedicated to tackling gang crime.
The 69-yr-old, a resident of Pinnocks Avenue, Gravesend, was remanded into custody at the notorious Category A prison HMP Belmarsh before posting a £20,000 bail surety. Mills’ wife Ann told the inquest that her husband felt “depressed and worried” about his upcoming trial.
She told the coroner’s court that Mills feared he could die in prison if found guilty of the possession charges, which carry a maximum sentence of ten years.
“He said to me he worried about dying in prison, he did not know if he could cope. I said to him if he got 10 years he would only probably serve five,” Ann Mills told the court in a written statement.
UK Shooting News exclusively revealed that Mills was found dead on 17th January. The inquest heard that he went for “one last shoot” with a friend he knew through Reeves Gun Club at woodland that Mills owned in Cobham, Kent. The friend, who had passed Mills an unloaded and broken shotgun, heard a bang, which he assumed was Mills shooting a pigeon, before he turned and saw the RFD motionless on the ground with “massive head injuries”. Mills was reported to have placed the muzzle of the shotgun just underneath his eye socket before pulling the trigger.
Kent coroner Alan Blunsdon recorded the death as suicide, saying: “He didn’t express any direct indication to anyone that he intended to take his own life but his wife, who knew him better than anyone, was concerned about his welfare and frequently asked him if he was alright.”
A reader comment beneath the Kent Media Group report on Mills’ death – which was only written after UKSN’s author had pitched the story, for payment, to KM Group two months previously – claims that Mills was the victim of a police sting operation, where an undercover officer wearing a wire approached Mills and asked him questions presumably designed to prompt an incriminating response. There is no way of verifying if this anonymous allegation is true.
The charges laid against Mills, on the face of them, do not necessarily indicate that he was guilty of being a gangland armourer. The difference between an antique pistol – legal to own provided it is kept as a curiosity or ornament, and not carried on the streets – and a prohibited pistol often comes down to technical details such as the pistol’s chambering or its age. As a militaria dealer, Mills would naturally have handled and sold antique pistols.
While the “primed case” charge may seem incriminating, again, an inert cartridge case with a deactivated, oil-soaked primer could be covered by such a charge framed by non-specialists who didn’t understand what was in front of them – or police employees determined to meet arrest and conviction targets regardless of the truth. An oil-soaked primer looks exactly like a live primer and, if inserted into a cartridge case, is entirely non-obvious as an inert item.
Nevertheless, Mills seems to have formed the view that he was going down regardless, so perhaps he really was guilty as charged. With the case against him having been withdrawn, as is normal after the death of a defendant, the public will never know what really happened.