September 18 2014 Latest news:
Story by: JOHN ELWORTHY
Tuesday, September 2, 2014
A former Wisbech mayor given a suspended prison sentence for owning a Walther PPK hand gun that once belonged to a German soldier is hopeful the weapon can go on show in his local museum.
Jonathan Farmer wants the gun, and a brief outline of its history, to go on permanent display in the Fenland and Wisbech Museum.
It will sit alongside other historic legacies including the original manuscript of Charles Dicken’s Great Expectations which was bequeathed to the museum in 1868.
Mr Farmer, 57, was given a 21 month suspended prison term and ordered to do 250 hours unpaid work with £2,000 costs when he was sentenced at Cambridge Crown Court on Friday.
But he revealed today that before leaving the dock his barrister asked the judge, Mr Justice Gareth Hawkesworth, if the gun could be given to the museum now it no longer formed part of a legal case.
The gun had been gifted to Mr Farmer some 25 years ago by a family friend who served in the last war and took it from a German officer after the battle of Monte Cassino in Italy. However by keeping it in a cupboard at his home a jury found convicted under of illegal possession under the 1968 Firearms Act.
“During the case the judge had made no order about the gun and so I asked if it could be de-activated, at my expense, and passed to the Fenland museum,” said Mr Farmer.
“The judge said that providing I could find a museum within six months willing to accept it, the gun could then be given to them.”
Mr Farmer, mayor of Wisbech in 2008-9, said his friend who took the gun belonged to the 5th Maratha Light Infantry and nowhere in the country was there a museum commemorating their achievements during the war.
“The police have already called me and they are in the process of getting the gun de-activated so things are moving,” said Mr Farmer who has spoken to the museum curator David Wright.
“The next stage is to get consent from the chairman of the management committee, Richard Barnwell, and I am hopeful he will agree. Mr Barnwell’s own father fought at Monte Cassino too so there is a definite connection.”
Meanwhile Mr Farmer has lost his seat on both Wisbech Town Council and Fenland District Council, is facing legal costs of £5,500 as well as the fine and considering an uncertain future.
He was automatically disqualified from public office the moment he was given a 21-month suspended sentence.
A Fenland Council spokesman said: “He ceased to be a councillor from the moment of sentencing and he is automatically disqualified from being elected or being a councillor for five years.”
Mr Farmer said: “I suppose I will try now to find a job but that might be difficult.”
He added: “If there is a moral to this story it is this: don’t leave guns in cupboards”.