Hotelier Ellis cleared on firearms charges

PUBLISHED: 17:43 26 September 2007 | UPDATED: 23:04 28 May 2010

Martin Ellis

Martin Ellis

MARCH hotelier Martin Ellis walked away from court a free man on Wednesday after he was cleared of illegally possessing fire arms. "I have had sleepless nights and it has made my very ill with stress because I knew I had done nothing wrong," said Mr Ellis, 52, owner of the Griffin Hotel

EXCLUSIVE by Tom Jackson and Elaine King

MARCH hotelier Martin Ellis walked away from court a free man on Wednesday after he was cleared of illegally possessing fire arms.

“I have had sleepless nights and it has made my very ill with stress because I knew I had done nothing wrong,” said Mr Ellis, 52, owner of the Griffin Hotel.

“These charges I was on carried a jail term of five years each and I have had that over my head for the last 18 months. But, at last, the sleepless nights have gone and now I want to get things back to normal.”

Ellis was charged with possessing a TX200 British Air Arms air rifle without a firearms certificate and a Poly-Kor slug cartridge, also without a certificate when police raided the hotel on April 6 last year, following a tip-off from a former employee.

But, after the jury at Cambridge Crown Court was told that police had been “sloppy” in their procedures after seizing the rifle – and its fire power could have been altered while in police hands – they found him not guilty on both counts.

“The gun’s fire power was below the 12ft lbs limit that makes a firearm certificate necessary when Ellis bought the weapon,” said barrister Sally Hobson. She said there was no proof it was over the limit at the time of the raid on April 6 last year.

When police raided the Griffin Hotel, five shotguns and an ornamental flintlock pistol were seized, along with a loaded TX200 British Air Arms air rifle and a Quality Street jar containing shotgun cartridges and the single shot Poly-Kor slug cartridge.

Miss Hobson said: “When Ellis bought the rifle, in 2001, it fired at 11.5ft lbs. He used the gun only once, so there was nothing to alert him that it was over the legal limit.”

She pointed to gaps in the Crown’s case, saying there was no evidence about what happened to the pellet taken from the loaded air rifle. There were also gaps in records about what happened to the seized gun when it was put into a police gun cupboard on both April 6 and 7.

“There was a breach of protocol in the way the weapons were dealt with,” she said. “It was not just sloppy but a huge mistake.”

Miss Hobson also said Mr Ellis “simply didn’t know the cartridge was in his possession.”

“Why would he risk his good character to possess one cartridge that put him in this serious position?” she asked the jury. “He is a man extremely unlikely to knowingly possess something that is unlawful.”

On his return to the Griffin on Wednesday evening, Mr Ellis was still shaking and could only manage a glass of lemonade to celebrate.

He praised his partner of 10 years, Linda Lewington, who he described as a “tower of strength through a tough time”.

Mr Ellis, who has held a shotgun licence for 30 years, said he used to go shooting on the Yorkshire Moors and Scotland, and sometimes on friends’ farms when he lived in Oxford.

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