'Courier' helped former Leeds United player Paul Shepherd buy deadly sniper rifle and 200 bullets
A man who bought a sniper rifle and more than 200 rounds of ammunition before delivering it to a former Leeds United player has been sent to prison.
Shane Kemaka drove from his home in Leeds to Liverpool to buy the weapon with £5,000 before returning to West Yorkshire.
The rifle was found at the Chapel Allerton home of ex-Leeds United player Paul Shepherd during an operation by the National Crime Agency (NCA).
Kameka, 40, pleaded guilty to assisting the possession of a firearm and ammunition without a certificate.
Leeds Crown Court heard Kameka was hired to act as the courier and took delivery of the weapon on March 30 last year.
Paul Mitchell, prosecuting, said Kemeka met Shepherd outside a pub and was handed £5,000.
Arrangements had been made for the rifle and bullets to be bought for £4,500.
Kemeka was allowed to keep the remaining £500 for his involvement.
His car was caught on automatic number plate recognition cameras as he drove to Merseyside before returning with the weapon and ammunition later the same day.
NCA officers found the weapon at Shepherd's home on Wensleydale Court the following month.
Mr Mitchell said the Howa bolt-action rifle was in full working order and was capable of having a telescopic sight fitted to it.
A total of 213 rounds of ammunition was found, although they were not compatible with the rifle.
Kemeka, of no fixed address, was arrested in June last year.
He claimed he had travelled to Liverpool on the day of the offence but denied involvement in criminality.
The DNA of Merseyside criminal Gerard Wignall was also found on the weapon.
Wignall's home was close to where Kameka had collected the weapon in the Kirkby area of Liverpool.
Kameka appeared before the court via a prison video link.
He is currently serving a 46-month sentence for an offence of arson being reckless as to whether life was endangered.
Rodney Ferm, mitigating, said Kameka did not use the weapon and simply acted as a courier.
He said: "Covid put a stop to his business.
"He had time on his hands and was worried financially about his future.
"The reality is that he is now apart from his family when they are in difficulty."
The Recorder of Leeds, Judge Guy Kearl QC, gave Kameka a five-month prison sentence, to be added to the sentence he is currently serving.
Shepherd, 43, of Stainbeck Lane, Chapel Allerton, Leeds, was found guilty of possessing a Glock semi-automatic pistol and a Howa bolt-action rifle, and of two counts of possession of cocaine, following a trial last month.The former defender, who made one appearance for Leeds United, against Arsenal in 1996, also played for Luton Town, Ayr United, Oldham Athletic, Scarborough and Harrogate Town, as well as playing for England Under 20s at the 1997 FIFA World Youth Championship.
Officers from the National Crime Agency caught Shepherd as part of an investigation linked to Operation Venetic at his home with the weapons and 200 rounds of ammunition in April 2020.
The NCA began an investigation after finding the encrypted Encro phone and drugs in his home; he had been stopped earlier in his car by West Yorkshire Police who found a block of cocaine in his car.
Messages on the Encro phone linked Shepherd to the guns and triggered further arrests in West Yorkshire, Merseyside and the North East.
Those arrested included Wignall, 33, from Merseyside who was jailed for 16 months in April after his DNA was found on the rifle, which was linked to a commercial burglary.
Carl O'Flaherty, 36, of Leysholme Terrace, Wortley, Leeds, was also arrested in June last year.
He admitted multiple drugs and firearms charges.
Evidence showed O'Flaherty helped source the gun for Shepherd and took payment for it.
Following the three day trial at Leeds Crown Court, Shepherd was found guilty of the four charges he faced.
He and O'Flaherty are charged with further drugs supply offences which are due to go to trial in May 2022, after which their sentences will be decided.
NCA Operations Manager, Nigel Coles, said: “Shepherd went to great lengths to acquire dangerous firearms that were criminally sourced.
“The seriousness of gun crime cannot be underestimated.
"Had we not intercepted these weapons they would have been used to threaten and intimidate others with the potential loss of life.
Criminals like Shepherd, O’Flaherty and Kameka perpetuate violent crime and are only motivated by financial gain.
"Reducing the availability of illegal firearms remains a priority for the NCA."