Police officers raid an ex-Leeds United and Luton Town player’s home before then finding a huge stash of guns, bullets and drugs.
A rifle and a phone found in the former footballer Paul Shepherd’s house based in Chapel Allerton brought down a network of criminals across the north of England.
He was caught after police officers stopped his car and found a block of cocaine, with his property then searched in April last year and officers found a Glock semi-automatic pistol, a Howa bolt-action rifle, 200 rounds of ammunition and small quantities of cannabis and crack cocaine, as well as an EncroChat phone.
After the discovery of the phone, the National Crime Agency went on to launch an investigation as part of Operation Venetic – UK law enforcement’s response to the encrypted Europe-based communication platform EncroChat.
Messages on the seized device linked Shepherd to the firearms and triggered further arrests and seizures across West Yorkshire, Merseyside and the North East.
Those arrested included a Liverpool man named Gerard Wignall whose DNA was found on the rifle at Shepherd’s house. The 33-year-old was jailed for a year and four months in May.
The rifle was traced back to a commercial burglary and was being looked after by Wignall before it was then sent to West Yorkshire.
A further suspect, Carl O’Flaherty in Wortley, Leeds, was arrested in June 2020 and pleaded guilty to multiple drugs and firearms offences the following month.
Evidence proved that O’Flaherty helped source the firearm for Shepherd and took eventual payment for it.
A third man from Swarcliffe, Leeds, named as Shane Kameka, also pleaded guilty to being involved in supplying firearms.
Kameka acted as a courier and transported the rifle from Merseyside with investigators believing they were assisted by Clinton Blakey, 36, from Adel, Leeds, who is currently wanted by the NCA after failing to appear at court after he was charged in August.
Fast forward to this week and 42-year-old Shepherd was found guilty of four charges relating to possessing a firearm and class A drugs after a three-day trial at Leeds Crown Court.
Shepherd, Kameka and O’Flaherty are due to be sentenced at a later date. Kameka will also be sentenced for a separate arson offence during the hearing.
A fifth man, who is from County Durham, is due to go on trial next year.
— Martyn Bishop (@MartynBCFC) January 3, 2016
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.”
1995–1999 – Leeds United
1998 → Ayr United (loan) – 6 games (1 goal)
1999 → Tranmere Rovers (loan) – 1 game (0 goals)
1999–2000 – Ayr United – 21 games (1 goal)
2000 – Keflavík ÍF
2000–2001 – Scunthorpe United – 1 game (0 goals)
2001 – Luton Town – 7 games (0 goals)
2001–2002 – Oldham Athletic
2001–2002 → Scarborough (loan) – 10 games (2 goals)
2002–2003 – Scarborough – 35 games (6 goals)
2003–2004 – Leigh RMI – 29 games (1 goal)
2004–2005 – Harrogate Town
2005 – Stalybridge Celtic – 16 games (2 goals)
1997 England U20 – 3 games (1 goal)
Fans reacted after seeing police raid the ex-Leeds and Luton player’s home finding guns, bullets and drugs…
James McAndrew: Beautiful he can play soccer in prison now — good work NCA TEAM plus all police units involved in this arrest. Why the need of guns
Robert Thomas: Good call NCA
Nigel Tidd: Probably a 15 point deduction coming our way 🤣
Roland Brame: Well done NCA show him a red card 🤗
Linda Whiter: Should’ve stuck to football!!!. Great job NCA.
Richard Timothy: Couldn’t hit a barn door
Stuart Baker: Dirty Dirty Leeds 😁😁😁
Dean Davies: Nothing to worry about… he never had a shot on target in his life.
Pete Bartlett: He will be an asset to the Prison football ⚽️ team for many years to come.
Adam Burgin: By the looks of him he needs his hard drive checking 👊🏻
Robert Johnson: Real life mean machine 😄
Jonno Simmons: Good job. 15 years. No parole
Jason Newell: Wow 🤣