Airman admits stealing gun parts

An airman who initially denied stealing gun parts from the Defence Force has done a U-turn, changing his plea to guilty at the Blenheim District Court.

Flight Sergeant Murray John Smith had been charged with stealing more than $2000 worth of automatic pistol parts and unlawfully possessing automatic pistol barrels and slides from Woodbourne air base near Blenheim.

Defence lawyer Philip Watson entered the guilty plea following stern comments from Justice Kelly that the defence should reconsider their case.

"As a result of yesterday's evidence coming forward and as a result of your comments I can make an application that Mr Smith will vacate his pleas," Mr Watson told the court.

The judge accepted the guilty plea.

"I'm firmly of the view that the elements of the charges have been established on the evidence I heard yesterday, and not withstanding that fact that I haven't heard the defence evidence. Given that I have cross-examination and the answers given by the witnesses, I would have found that the defence could not have established a reasonable defence on a balance of probabilities."

In court on Wednesday witnesses at the trial claimed their superiors were sweeping complaints under the carpet and they had a lack of faith that anything would be done about what they had seen.

One witness had even taken photographs of Smith grinding serial numbers off restricted gun components.  

Smith will remain free on bail till sentencing on March 8.