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Crown seeks nine years for firearms operation

Man guilty of manufacturing machine-guns on property

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Manitoba justice officials are seeking a nine-year prison sentence for a man caught manufacturing machine-guns on his sprawling rural property.

A jury convicted Elwyn Evans, 67, last week and he returned to court Wednesday to learn his fate in one of the first cases of its kind ever uncovered in the province.

His sentencing hearing began with a bang -- the Crown played a short video in court of an RCMP officer firing a machine-gun in a shooting range to illustrate the deadly impact of a weapon normally seen only in Hollywood action flicks.

"These guns are designed to kill and maim a large number of people," said prosecutor Brian Bell. "They are of no value to the hunter or the marksman."

The day ended with more fireworks as Evans went on a lengthy, off-the-cuff rant about being wrongfully convicted by a corrupt system.

"I'm innocent," he shouted to Queen's Bench Justice Karen Simonsen. "I don't understand any of this. Do you want me to hang myself? Is that what you want?"

Evans is seeking, at most, another four months in custody in addition to 19 months of pretrial custody.

The Crown says he should do another five years and 10 months behind bars, which would be a nine-year term on paper if pretrial custody is doubled. They cite several prior convictions dating back to the 1960s, including three separate weapons offences.

Simonsen has reserved her decision until later this fall.

Evans claims he was stunned to discover his property was home to a massive weapons operation, but jurors rejected that story in finding him guilty of running an illegal enterprise. The case revolves around an August 2006 police raid in Komarno, about 75 kilometres north of Winnipeg. Officers found 19 Sten submachine-guns, 121 Sten magazines and a homemade .50-calibre rifle. They also discovered three solid-steel pen guns -- homemade weapons disguised as ballpoint pens.

Evans claims other visitors to the property -- including a person living in an outlying camper-trailer -- must have been responsible for the cache. Evans went on a lengthy tirade Wednesday about the man, calling him both a police informant and a "murderer."

Police found no fingerprints or other forensic evidence linking Evans to the firearms, but the Crown relied on a witness who said he sold Sten parts to Evans about a year earlier. There were also drawings of the pen guns found in Evans' attached garage along with other pieces used to assemble the weapons.

Evans admits to being an expert at working with metals and that he would have been capable of assembling the guns in his shop. His life reads like a movie, including having his father killed in the Second World War, serving a stint as a paratrooper in the British Royal Air Force, becoming a Canadian citizen in 1971, losing a five-year-old son to a tragic house fire a few years later, being severely injured by a workplace accident in the 1990s and fighting skin cancer on three occasions.

Bell told court Wednesday it's safe to assume Evans was in the business of supplying organized crime groups with the high-powered weaponry. But defence lawyer Gerri Wiebe said there is no such evidence, and that Evans has a natural curiosity about collecting military firearms based on his history.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition September 27, 2012 B3

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