'Walter Mitty' IT manager admits to buying gun on dark web

Cops chalk one up to undercover sting operation

A “Walter Mitty” IT manager from Milton Keynes who bought a gun on the dark web has pleaded guilty to firearms offences.

Darren Hillyer, 38, posed as a woman supposedly wanting revenge on a paedophile ex-lover. He bought a Ruger LC9 9mm pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition from a dark web “gun trader”.

In reality, the seller account was under the control of officers from the National Crime Agency who forwarded a plastic replica gun hidden inside a DAB radio.

Hillyer had arranged to receive the “gun” through a middleman, a 47 year old he had come to know through an online chat forum but had never met in person. Ian MacPhee, from Newton Abbot, Devon, was arrested when he picked up the parcel from a local post office in late July. MacPhee had agreed to forward the package to Hillyer.

After tracing the forwarding address, police arrested Hillyer later that afternoon at an insolvency company in Euston, London, where he worked as an IT manager.

Hillyer’s colleagues described him as a “fantasist” and a “Walter Mitty type character” when questioned by police. Workmates said Hillyer claimed that he that worked for the intelligence and security services who had issued him a gun.

During a police interview Hillyer also claimed his activity on the dark web was part of research to help him apply to join the NCA before eventually admitting his wrongdoing.

Hillyer pleaded guilty to conspiracy to import a firearm and ammunition at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday (10 September). MacPhee pleaded guilty to attempting to evade the duty on an imported item during the same hearing. Both are due to be sentenced at Bristol Crown Court on 30 October.

In a statement, Peter Vernon, senior investigating officer for the NCA, said: "People looking to obtain illicit goods and services under the supposed anonymity of the dark web continue to discover that they can in fact be traced and identified.

“It would appear Hillyer was trying to live out a fantasy but attempting to buy a firearm in the real world has real life consequences,” he added. ®

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