Search after fire revealed man’s hidden handgun

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A TENANT’S determined efforts to get into his flat after a fire raised suspicions, and police discovered a handgun hidden in a sofa, a court has heard.

Thomas Seath was interrupted by a neighbour as he removed boarding which had been fixed across a door.

A short time later, he was seen carrying a 15ft-long set of ladders and was reported to police as a suspected housebreaker. He claimed he needed to retrieve a benefits book from the upstairs flat, but when officers offered to help, he “panicked”.

A search then revealed the pistol and silencer in a bag within the backing of a sofa.

Seath, 39, of Dalkeith, Midlothian, is facing a minimum five-year jail term after admitting unlawful possession of the prohibited weapon on 26 March last year at Chester Square, Mayfield, Dalkeith. The case was continued for background reports and he was remanded in custody to appear at the High Court in Edinburgh for sentencing in April.

The advocate-depute, Stephen O’Rourke, said Seath had a record of minor convictions, in line with the understanding that “he has drug addiction issues”.

He was sole tenant of a top floor, one-bedroom flat in the two-storey block, but had not been living there before a fire in the common stair on 16 March. Mr O’Rourke said the front and rear doors to the stair were boarded up to prevent access until a safety inspection had been carried out. Seath was refused entry to the flat because of health and safety concerns.

On 25 March, a resident heard banging at the stair and looked out to see the boarding had been removed, and Seath with an electric drill. The man told him he should not be there, and Seath left. The man replaced the boarding.

About two hours later, police received a call about someone acting suspiciously, carrying an extendable set of ladders near Chester Square. Seath approached police and asked if he could enter the boarded block of flats by an open window. He said he wanted to retrieve his benefits book so he could receive a payment next day.