Five years' jail for grandmother who kept father's wartime memento gun

A WOMAN who claimed she had hidden a gun under her mattress to keep it away from her grandchildren was jailed for five years yesterday.

Gail Cochrane, 53, said she inherited the weapon, a German military pistol, when her father died. He had served in the Royal Navy and the handgun was a "war trophy" which she held while thinking of him.

She told a court that she had been worried about her grandchildren discovering the gun when she kept it in a box in a wardrobe, and moved it to under her mattress.

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However, the judge, Lady Smith, said the claim "made no sense", and that Cochrane had no reasonable explanation for failing to hand in the gun to the authorities.

Lady Smith ruled that there were no exceptional circumstances to prevent Cochrane from receiving a mandatory five-year jail term for possessing the weapon.

Police found the gun under a mattress in Cochrane's home in Morgan Street, Dundee, on 17 June last year, while they were searching for her son, who had failed to attend a court hearing.

Cochrane admitted having the 7.65mm Browning self-loading pistol without holding a firearms certificate or having the permission of Scottish ministers. Under laws introduced in the wake of the Dunblane shooting massacre, the offence carries a minimum five-year jail sentence unless a judge is satisfied there are "exceptional circumstances".

Cochrane said her father, John, died 29 years ago and a box of wartime belongings, including the gun, was found among his property.

"I took the gun, for sentimental value. Sometimes I held it to think of my dad. I know it sounds stupid," said Cochrane.

She claimed she kept the gun in a box on a shelf in a walk-in wardrobe, but her grandchildren began to keep computers in the wardrobe and were forever "climbing about in there".

Cochrane denied she had been hiding the gun for anyone, and said she had never thought she might be committing a crime by holding on to it, or that she needed a licence.

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Lady Smith said she could accept with some hesitation Cochrane's account of how she first came into possession of the weapon.

"However, if she wanted something to remember him by, a gun, particularly one she was not aware he possessed, does appear to have been an odd choice to make," said the judge.

"I do not accept the reason for moving it under the mattress was to keep it away from children who had been getting access to her walk-in wardrobe. That explanation simply does not make sense."

She ruled that access to the gun had been open to Cochrane's son, who had "significant previous convictions".

"I cannot find myself satisfied this is one of those rare cases where exceptional circumstances exist. The result is I have no alternative but to sentence Mrs Cochrane to a period of five years' imprisonment."

Her son, John Cochrane, 33, screamed abuse and stormed from the court as the sentence was passed.