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The owner of tens of thousands of rounds of high-powered ammunition which he says vanished after being seized by Victoria Police, fears the bullets will find their way onto the black market and be used on members of the public.
Sam, whose surname has been withheld to protect his safety, says police failed to properly record the exact number of bullets seized from his home and when they were returned weeks later a huge portion of the arsenal was missing.
Sam said some of the ammunition that wasn’t returned included his HMR17 and 9mm rounds, pictured in a police car.
A keen clay target shooter and gun club member, Sam said two commercial safes filled with handgun and shotgun rounds were never returned, items he had photographed as police carried the boxes away.
That amount of boxed, high-powered factory ammunition could fetch about $250,000 on the black market, Sam said, and he fears it could now end up in the wrong hands.
“I don’t want this happening to others, to anyone else,” Sam said.
In a letter, seen by The Age, professional standards command said their investigation substantiated Sam’s claims that an officer had failed to adequately record and or handle the firearm-related items when they were taken in 2021.
The police officer involved instead issued Sam a receipt that simply stated “various ammunition”, in a breach of proper procedure.
Victoria Police maintain all items seized, including tens of thousands of rounds of ammunition, were returned. But without proper documentation, Sam said they had no evidence this had occurred, leaving him thousands of dollars out of pocket.
Sam, who has collected the rounds over the past 50 years, said the saga began when he attempted to sell a parcel of his land in 2021.
A woman he knew claimed to have helped find a buyer and wanted to be paid. This disagreement escalated with threats of blackmail and, Sam said, vexatious claims made against him to police.
This sparked the seizure of his guns and ammunition, which is police policy for registered firearms owners.
When the claims against him were proved to be false, Sam was cleared of any wrongdoing within weeks and his ability to possess firearms and ammunition was reinstated.
Sam said that that is when the discrepancy over what was taken from his home first became clear.
When he queried the amount of ammunition returned with his local police station, he said the estimates of what had been seized and returned began to contradict.
“This is my hobby. I travel around to gun shows and purchase ammunition with my friends,” he said. “I’ve been collecting them since 1970. This is my sport, target shooting.”
When contacted about the case, a Victoria Police spokesman said the officer involved in issuing the receipt had been given workplace counselling to prevent a similar situation from occurring.
The spokesman said the organisation maintained all items seized were returned and deny any items were lost or misplaced.
“The investigation concluded there was no evidence to support any assertion that all ammunition seized was not returned to the complainant. However, during the course of this investigation, opportunities for improvement in record taking were identified and workplace guidance has been provided,” they said.
National Shooting Council vice president Peter Zabrdac said in Australia, there was currently no limit on the amount of ammunition a person could purchase. In other states though, all purchases were recorded against a person’s firearms licence to ensure the amounts they owned were known.
Zabrdac said a similar scheme should be considered here to protect licence holders and the public.
“The fear is this ammo is going to get used against members of Victoria Police, or the public, if it hits the streets,” he said.
“We’re talking 60,000 rounds. This has got to be the biggest smell I’ve seen and heard in 20-odd years pertaining to firearms and ammunition in Victoria, it’s unprecedented.”
It’s not the first time discrepancies have arisen following the seizure of items.
In October 2021, a coronial investigation revealed more than 100,000 guns had gone missing across the state, prompting calls for an overhaul of Victoria’s firearms registry.
The list includes a mix of those reported lost, stolen or destroyed without record.
At the time, state coroner John Cain was investigating the murder of Marilyn Burdon, finding that had there been more robust systems to monitor the registration and storage of firearms, her killer may not have been able to circumvent his firearm ban and illegally retain the gun he used to kill his partner.
Earlier, in June 2018, doubts were also cast over the firearms registry after firearms dealer Ross Barlow lodged a complaint with police alleging dozens of his guns vanished after being seized when his licence was revoked in 2014.
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