A WOMAN of 71 found a loaded pistol in her bin when she went to empty the rubbish at a elderly housing complex in Leeds.
A court heard the woman picked up the weapon thinking it was a toy and pointed it at her neighbour.
It was in fact a loaded Webley and Scott self loading pistol with a live cartridge of ammunition.
The weapon had been dumped in the bin by Klevis Banushi and Sabbir Hussain as they fled from police when they were stopped in a car in the Hyde Park area of Leeds.
Leeds Crown Court heard officers also discovered balaclavas, gloves and matching tracksuits in the vehicle.
The pair had been travelling in a Vauxhall Astra driven by another man on the afternoon of September 7 last year when officers noticed that one of the vehicle’s tail lights was not working.
They carried out a routine stop but Banushi and Hussain, both aged 24, ran from the vehicle in panic and fled into a housing estate built for elderly resident.
The two men were seen by residents trying to hide from officers. They were arrested a short time later on Kirkstall Road.
The weapon was found by the woman around three hours later when she went she went to the bin shed at the side of her property.
Oliver Thorne, prosecuting, said the woman thought it was a toy which had been left there by her neighbour.
He added: “She pointed it at him and asked him if he had put it there and he was very frightened.”
The neighbour took the weapon from her after realising it was a genuine firearm and contacted police.
The weapon was examined by experts and it was discovered that the safety catch was not working properly.
Banushi and Hussain were both sentenced to seven years in prison after a jury found them guilty of possessing an imitation firearm and possession of ammunition.
Judge Jacqueline Davis told the pair: “This was a most serious incident.
“You abandoned this weapon recklessly in this lady’s property.
“The person who found it could easily have been injured to a greater or lesser extent.
“Mercifully the quick and careful thinking of her neighbour neighbour prevented that.”
The judge added: “The vehicle in which you were travelling had various items in it. I infer from that that criminal activity of some kind was intended.”
Det Insp Jaz Khan, of Leeds District Serious Organised Crime Unit, said: “Illegally held firearms, like the one these men were caught with, have only one deadly purpose. We have seen the terrible human consequences that weapons like this can bring and they have no place in our communities.
“While we have no evidence to prove any intentions on the part of these men, possessing a gun and ammunition, and the serious legal penalties that go with it, is not something people would generally enter into lightly.
“The significant sentences they have received, despite their lack of previous convictions, should service as a stark reminder to others.
“We would like to thank the members of the public for their help in this case. We would also ask that anyone who has any information about illegal firearms or ammunition in the community contacts us in confidence either directly or anonymously via Crimestoppers on 8000 555 111.”