A man who made online searches for the Dunblane school massacre and bought a gun and 100 rounds of ammunition has been warned he faces a “substantial” jail term.
James Maxwell used cryptocurrency to fund the purchase of a Glock pistol and bullets to be delivered to his home address in Fife from the USA.
But the High Court in Edinburgh heard that American law enforcement officers, who were examining outbound packages in the US mailing system, intercepted the parcel bound for Maxwell.
Advocate depute Richard Goddard KC said the Glock 17 handgun and magazine were found hidden inside a household electronic device, along with two boxes of ammunition.
The US authorities alerted Police Scotland and a package with the electronic device and boxes for the gun and bullets were put into the mail after the firearm and ammunition were removed.
The 28-year-old took delivery of the package at a house in Henderson Park, Windygates, Leven, on January 11 this year. Police armed with a search warrant went into the address and found Maxwell wearing blue latex gloves with the mail item in his bedroom.
Mr Goddard said: “A laptop was found open and in use in the bedroom. It had a pdf file saved on it which was an instruction manual for a Glock pistol.”
During an interview Maxwell told police that in October last year his mental health worsened and he began feeling suicidal and researched how to source a firearm. He admitted that in December he paid £1,000 for the gun and ammunition.
Mr Goddard said: “He stated that prior to the delivery of the package he was no longer suicidal but made no effort to cancel the order as he assumed that as he had paid for it, he had to receive it.”
The prosecutor said after the laptop was examined searches were found including ‘best suicide method’ and ‘suicide by gunshot UK’.
But Mr Goddard added: “However, other searches included ‘primary school in Glasgow’, ‘Dunblane school massacre’ and ‘when do schools break up for Christmas 2022’.”
The Dunblane school massacre occurred on March 13 in 1996 when gunman Thomas Hamilton invaded a primary school in the community near Stirling and shot dead 16 children and a teacher before killing himself.
Mr Goddard said the Glock pistol bought by unemployed, benefit recipient Maxwell was in good condition and in full working order.
“The ammunition purchased by the accused amounted to 100 rounds of 9mm hollow pointed bulleted cartridges. This type of ammunition is designed to deform on impact, increasing the surface area of the bullet and causing increased injury,” he told the court.
Police also found that Maxwell had saved a sexually explicit video of a young, underage girl performing sex acts and images of bestiality. He also made internet searches including ’13-year-old boy’ and ‘cute 14-year-olds’.
Defence counsel Jonathan Crowe told the court that Maxwell bought the gun for “suicidal purposes” He said: “I can advise, and there is no dispute, there is no other information or evidence pointing to any sinister motives of Mr Maxwell to do anything with this weapon in relation to primary schools.”
A judge said he noted what the defence counsel said that the gun and ammunition was bought for suicidal purposes and there was no intention to use it in relation to children.
Lord Ericht added: “However, I have to say at this stage, I also note that 100 bullets were bought which would seem to be an excessive number for suicide purposes. This type of ammunition was designed to deform on impact.”
The judge said he also noted that as well as the Dunblane search there were others for primary school in Glasgow and the schools Christmas break up.
He deferred sentence on the first offender for the preparation of a background report and remanded him in custody after indicating that a substantial prison sentence was the likely outcome.
Maxwell, a prisoner in Perth, admitted six charges when he appeared in court on Wednesday. He pled guilty to purchasing and attempting to acquire a prohibited weapon between December 1 last year and January 11 this year. He also admitted committing the offence without holding a firearms certificate.
He also admitted buying and attempting to acquire and possess the ammunition and attempting to import the firearm and bullets without lawful authority.
He further admitted possessing the child pornography video between April 22 last year and January 11 this year and possessing extreme pornographic images involving animals.
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