'Dangerous' men found with gun and 'sinister' clown mask in boot of car

Two "dangerous" men have been jailed for firearm offences after a loaded gun, 15 rounds of ammunition, and a "sinister" clown mask were found in the boot of their rental car.

The pistol, which was recovered from a black Nike bag, was used in a London shooting a month before Akelle Charles and Ricardo Thomas were arrested at gunpoint at a service station.

The pair had made their way in the vehicle from the capital to Wolverhampton late on 26 October last year.

The next day they headed on to the M40 motorway and then stopped at Warwick Services where they were detained by officers just before 9pm.

The pistol was forensically examined and linked to bullet cases left at the scene of the London shooting, where a number of shots had been fired at a house.

Charles's home was just over two miles from the scene of the attack, although there was no evidence linking him to it, West Midlands Police said.

The force said that messages later recovered from the men's phones suggested they had "heavy involvement and knowledge of firearms".

Thomas, of Smethwick, and Charles, of London, both aged 33, admitted possession of a firearm and ammunition.

At Birmingham Crown Court on Tuesday, Thomas was jailed for eight years while Charles was sentenced to six years and nine months behind bars.

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Detective Inspector Amar Patel, from the West Midlands Regional Organised Crime Unit, said: "These men were heading back towards London at the time of their arrest with a loaded firearm, gloves and a mask in a car hired in someone else's name.

"We'll never know what their plans were, but we have taken a loaded gun and two dangerous men off the streets."