Former Leeds United footballer Paul Shepherd convicted after guns and 200 rounds of ammunition found in home

A former Leeds United footballer has been convicted after being caught with guns, drugs and ammunition in a major police operation.

Paul Shepherd, 43, was charged with firearms offences after a Glock semi-automatic pistol and a Howa bolt-action rifle, as well as 200 rounds of ammunition, were seized from his home on Stainbeck Lane in April 2020.

The National Crime Agency (NCA) launched an investigation when an encrypted phone and drugs were found at Shepherd’s home.

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Shepherd, who played for Leeds United and Luton Town, had earlier been stopped in his car by West Yorkshire Police officers who found a block of cocaine in his vehicle.

Paul Shepherd, 43, has been convicted after rifles, drugs and 200 rounds of ammunition were found in his home on Stainbeck Lane in Leeds (Photo: NCA)

The investigation was part of Operation Venetic - a crackdown on criminal activity on the encrypted comms platform EncroChat.

Messages on the seized Encro phone linked Shepherd to the firearms which were later found in his home.

It triggered further arrests and seizures of weapons across West Yorkshire, Merseyside and the North East.

Those arrested included Gerard Wignall, 33, from Merseyside, who was sentenced to 16 months in prison last month after his DNA was found on the rifle at Shepherd’s house.

A Glock semi-automatic pistol and a Howa bolt-action rifle were found in Shepherd's home (Photo: NCA)

The rifle could be traced back to a commercial burglary and was being looked after by Wignall before it was transported to West Yorkshire.

A further suspect, Carl O’Flaherty, 36, of Leysolme Terrace, Leeds, was arrested in June 2020 and pleaded guilty to multiple drugs and firearms charges in July.

Evidence proved that O’Flaherty helped source the firearm for Shepherd and took eventual payment for it.

A third man from Leeds, Shane Kameka, 40, also pleaded guilty to being involved in supplying firearms.

Kameka acted as a courier and transported the rifle from Merseyside.

Police believe they were assisted by Clinton Blakey, 36, of Dunstarn Drive, Leeds, who is currently wanted by the NCA after failing to appear at court after he was charged in August.

Today at Leeds Crown Court, Shepherd was found guilty of four charges relating to possessing a firearm and Class A drugs after a three-day trial.

NCA Operations Manager, Nigel Coles, said: “Shepherd went to great lengths to acquire dangerous firearms that were criminally sourced.

“We’re pleased that the evidence presented at court this week has secured a guilty verdict and hope further charges can be proven at a later date.

“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.

“We are still seeking one other man involved in this investigation.

“Anyone with information on Clinton Blakey’s whereabouts is urged to contact the National Crime Agency on 0370 496 7622 or contact Crimestoppers, anonymously, on 0800 555 111.”