'Brazen and fearless': Handguns hidden in children's underwear drawer among hundreds of firearms seized in London

Three handguns hidden in a children's underwear drawer were among 386 illegal firearms seized across London last year.

The Metropolitan Police says its blitz has led to a record drop in gun crime, which is at its lowest level in 15 years.

Firearms offences have been cut from 196 to 145 since March 2023, while shooting murders are down from 12 in 2021/22 to eight in 2023/24.

But despite the highest detection rate for 11 years - some 52% of criminals responsible for shootings were prosecuted last year - the force is still failing to solve almost half.

No arrests have been made after a drive-by shooting in Dalston, east London, last month left four people injured, including a nine-year-old girl, who remains in critical condition in hospital.

Commander Paul Brogden said the majority of shootings in the capital involve gangs but "wholly innocent victims" like her can "be caught in the crossfire".

Tyrese Miller, 22, was shot dead in a case of mistaken identity on 4 April last year while he was on his way home after a night out with friends in Croydon, south London. Three men were later convicted in connection with the shooting.

"I worry that if this can happen to Tyrese, it can happen to anyone," his mother, Jackie Taylor, said.

"No mother should have to bury their son like I have. What happened to Tyrese has changed all of us. None of us will ever really come to terms with what has happened."

Police say that while "not as easy as ordering a pizza", those involved in criminal networks are able to readily access firearms to control drugs markets and territory or enforce debts.

Some of the weapons are smuggled into the country by ferry or the mail system, but gang members are increasingly relying on converted blank-firing guns.

They are sold for legitimate pursuits such as drama and farming for as little as £100 but sold on for thousands of pounds once converted to fire real bullets.

A total of 386 illegal firearms were seized by the Met last year, with 46% of the pistols converted from blank-firing guns, while 3D-printed weapons are yet to make a real impact on London's streets.

Police say the "brazen and fearless" possession of lethal weapons was demonstrated by Danny Butler, the 44-year-old armourer to a south London gang.

He was jailed for 18 years after officers found six guns, as well as a large amount of ammunition and Class A and B drugs, at the home he shared with his wife and three daughters - including an 18-month-old.

Three handguns, one of which was loaded, were among the weapons discovered in his children's underwear drawer.

Another pistol and a pump action sawn-off shotgun were found in his wardrobe, while a second sawn-off shotgun was discovered in the coat cupboard.

The Met says victims of gang shootings are often reluctant to engage with police, looking to take their own retribution, and that "today's victim could be tomorrow's suspect".

"Guns destroy lives and communities. The recent shootings in parts of London are a sad reminder that there is still work for us to do when it comes to cracking down on illegal firearms," said Commander Brogden.

"Our progress should serve as a message to criminals and gang members using firearms - we will come after you, and we will bring you to justice."