IT manager jailed for 5 years for attempting dark web gun buy

'Walter Mitty type' told officers he wanted to be NCA officer

A UK IT manager who bought a gun on the dark web has been jailed for five years for firearm offences.

Darren Hillyer, 38, posed as a woman supposedly wanting revenge on an ex-lover who she had discovered was a child abuser. According ordered a Ruger LC9 9mm pistol and 50 rounds of ammunition from a dark web “gun trader”.

The supposed gun dealers Hillyer contacted were officers from the National Crime Agency (NCA), 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 met on 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 without knowing what was inside.

After tracing the forwarding address, police arrested Hillyer later that afternoon at a firm in 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, among other tall tales. During police questioning Hillyer initially claimed his attempted purchase was research to help him apply to join the NCA before eventually admitting his wrongdoing.

He admitted conspiracy to import a firearm and ammunition in September prior to a sentencing hearing at Bristol Crown Court on Thursday (26 November) where he was jailed for five years. MacPhee, who admitted attempting to evade the duty on an imported item, was ordered to pay a £275 fine at the same as the sentencing hearing.

In a statement, Peter Vernon, senior investigating officer for the NCA, said: “Ensuring that illegal firearms cannot be sourced in this way is a national security priority and we will continue to work tirelessly to prevent and disrupt those involved in the buying and selling of firearms on the dark web.” ®

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