A cartridge found at the home of an alleged murderer had been in the same shotgun as the three which killed Rugby father Jordon Banton in cold blood, a jury has been told.
And a firearms expert rejected a defence suggestion that the four cartridges had all been in a self-loading shotgun, but that a different weapon had been used to fire the fatal shots.
A jury at Warwick Crown Court has heard that 23-year-old Mr Banton was shot in the head with a shotgun at close range in front of eye-witnesses.
It is alleged three 12-bore shots were fired at Mr Banton as he sat in his Seat Leon car in Newton Road, near Rugby, by Darrell Akins, while Paul Clarke acted as his get-away driver.
Akins, 28, of Follager Road, Rugby, and Clarke, 35, of Bluebell Close, Rugby, have both pleaded not guilty to the murder of the father-of-three on July 25 last year.
Firearms expert Anthony Gallagher said he first examined the fired cartridges found at the scene of the shooting, which were manufactured by Gamebore and labelled ‘high-tech hunting nickel,’ which he said were ones he had never come across before.
And he pointed out that most cartridges had brass ‘head stamps,’ but those had plastic-coated head stamps, which he had never seen before and which made them distinctive.
Asked by prosecutor Andrew Smith QC if he found any difference between the three fired cartridges and an unfired one found at Akins’ home, Mr Gallagher replied: “No. They were the same, apart from the fact that one had not been fired.”
Of more detailed microscopic examinations, he told the jury: “It was established from the firing marks that all the fired cartridges had been discharged from the same gun.”
The expert explained that was based on marks left on the cartridges by the firing pin and by the breach of the gun because of the 3-5 tonnes of pressure generated when it was fired.
They also had identical extractor arm marks which are found on the head stamp rim of cartridges ejected from self-loading or pump-action shotguns.
And Mr Gallagher said that in respect of all three types of mark ‘the level of agreement was conclusive’ that they had been fired from the same weapon.
“We concluded it was one firearm that was used; and because of the extractor marks we concluded it was a pump-action or self-loading shotgun. The marks are consistent each time, so we concluded it was likely to have been a self-loading one.”
Of the cartridge found on top of a wardrobe at Akins’ home, Mr Gallagher said: “I also examined that under a microscope. It was undischarged, so there were no firing pin marks and no breach marks, so we just looked for extractor markings.
“There was an extractor mark to the rim. For it to have an extractor mark it was at some stage loaded into a self-loading or pump action weapon.”
Asked whether he compared those marks with the extractor marks on the fired cartridges, he replied: “Yes we did, and the marks were conclusive in agreement.
“That tells us that at some stage in its life the unfired cartridge case was loaded into the same shotgun that discharged the shotgun cartridges found at the scene.”
Asked how certain he was of that, he responded: “My findings were conclusive; that is to say, there was no doubt.”
And he said he found no markings to suggest any of the four cartridges had been in more than one weapon.
Questioned by Adrian Redgrave QC, for Akins, Mr Gallagher confirmed his finding was that the three fired cartridges, which had been manufactured in the 1980s, ‘had at some stage in their life been cycled through the same weapon as the unfired cartridge.’
Mr Redgrave put to him: “Of course, we have no way of knowing when those four cartridges were cycled through the same weapon, have we?”
The expert replied: “The three found at the scene I would make the conclusion were cycled through on that day. They were found at the scene, so I’m making the assumption they were extracted from the murder weapon.
“For the fourth, there is no time frame. It could have been cycled through at any time.”
Mr Redgrave said the ‘one big missing determinate’ was the gun itself, which has never been found.
He submitted that there were several reasons why the four cartridges had been through the same weapon, including someone putting them into a self-loading shotgun and then extracting them to see how it worked, without firing them.
Although that would have resulted in the same extractor marks, he suggested: “There is no way in fact of knowing that the extractor marks on the three at the scene were made by the murder weapon, because you have not been able to examine any weapon.”
Mr Redgrave said the breach and firing pin marks must have been made when the gun was fired, but put to Mr Gallagher the extractor marks may have been made earlier in a different weapon.
But the firearms expert said: “It is a possibility, although not one I would consider in this instance.”
He added: “I would disregard it because of the plastic coating on the head stamp. Were they brass cases, it is harder to mark, I would agree. But with the plastic coating I would consider it less likely that an extractor arm could ride over them and leave no markings.”
The trial continues.