The case against an SAS soldier accused of possessing a pistol and more than 300 rounds of ammunition is built upon a “remarkable coincidence”, a court heard.
Sergeant Danny Nightingale, 38, based at Hereford, is on trial accused of possessing the Glock 9mm handgun and 338 rounds of ammunition.
His defence barrister, William Clegg QC, told the court martial board in Bulford, Wiltshire, that the prosecution was asking them to accept “pure coincidence” and “chance”.
Mr Clegg said that the pistol recovered from the wardrobe of Sergeant Nightingale’s bedroom – said to have been brought back from Iraq in 2007 by his client – was identical to one his housemate admitted to obtaining in the war-torn country four years earlier.
The court martial has heard how both weapons were discovered by civilian police in September 2011 when they raided the private rented house Sergeant Nightingale shared with an SAS colleague known only as Soldier N.
Soldier N, who cannot be identified for legal reasons, has previously admitted firearms charges in respect of a Glock 9mm pistol and ammunition found at the house and received two years’ military detention. Sergeant Nightingale now maintains that the account he gave police – in which he confessed to bringing the pistol back from Iraq in 2007 and keeping leftover ammunition from training sessions in the UK – was a “false confession” caused by a brain injury he suffered in 2009.
“In 2003 two guns arrived in Iraq,” Mr Clegg told the five-person military board in his closing speech. They are identical to each other in every respect. There are probably hundreds of thousands of firearms in Iraq of all different shapes, sizes and calibres from all different countries in the world. But these two arrived from the same source, from the same factory in Austria in the same year, 2003.
“Let’s not get away from the prosecution case – their case is that it is pure coincidence. It’s just one of those things of chance that can happen presumably over time.
“Just a pure coincidence.
“You must decide whether the starting point of the prosecution case is one you accept as likely or even credible coincidence.”
Sgt Nightingale, of Crewe, Cheshire, has pleaded not guilty to a charge of possession of a prohibited firearm, namely a Glock 9mm pistol, between November 26, 2007, and September 16, 2011. He also denies possession on or about September 16, 2011, of ammunition, namely 122 9mm live rounds, 40 7.62mm live rounds, 50 9mm frangible rounds, 50 .338 armour piercing rounds, two .308 rounds and 74 5.56mm live rounds.
The trial was adjourned until tomorrow