A FORMER Army captain has been found guilty of stealing sniper and automatic rifles worth thousands of pounds from a Ministry of Defence museum collection.

Peter Laidler, who is also a former police officer, stole an SA80 - the Army's standard issue automatic rifle - and components from the weapon as well as two Accuracy International L96 sniper rifles between 1998 and 2016.

The 72-year-old, of Marcham near Abingdon, was convicted at Winchester Crown Court yesterday of four counts of theft.

Co-defendant 61-year-old Roger Smith, an MoD police officer from Emsworth, Hampshire, was found guilty of one count of handling stolen goods in relation to an SA80.

Matthew Jewell QC, prosecuting, told the trial that Laidler had worked as the armourer for the Small Arms School Collection at Warminster in Wiltshire, where the weapons were stolen from.

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The collection shows the development of small weapons from the 16th century to the present day.

Mr Jewell said: "Mr Laidler stole weapons and parts of weapons belonging to the Army during his time working at the Small Arms School Collection.

"He didn't have permission to take any of those parts or weapons or treat them as his own but that is precisely what he did, in short form he stole them."

Mr Jewell said the two defendants had known each other for 'many years' and both had a 'keen interest in firearms.'

Smith will be sentenced on September 20 while Laidler will be sentenced at the conclusion of a further trial.