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Chairman of the Stroud branch of UKIP Stuart Francis-Love was questioned over Jill Dando's murder

A former SAS weapons instructor from Stonehouse who was questioned over the doorstep killing of television presenter Jill Dando in 1999 has lost an appeal against police refusal of a firearms licence.
Stuart Francis-Love, 61, of Middle Yard, King's Stanley, Stonehouse, who is chairman of the Stroud branch of UKIP, was originally refused a firearms licence because of his past convictions for causing grievous bodily harm and for possession of ammunition and an AK47 Kalashnikov assault rifle without a certificate.

Stuart Francis-Love

Mr Francis-Love, who had been in the RAF before joining the Special Air Service based in Hereford, appeared at Gloucester Crown Court yesterday when Judge Jamie Tabor QC rejected his appeal against the police decision.

After the hearing Mr Francis-Love spoke out about the time in 1999 when two Ministry of Defence police officers interviewed him and asked him if he had killed Jill Dando.

"Ammunition and explosives had been found in a locker at Shorncliff Barracks in Kent and I was arrested for illegal possession although it transpired not to be my locker and I was subsequently found not guilty after a trial," he said.

"But before the trial, two MoD officers came to see me and said that I fitted the profile of Jill Dando's killer – right height, build and knowledge of explosives and firearms.

"I thought they were joking but they assured me they were not and I told them that, of course, I had nothing to do with it."

At the appeal decision hearing yesterday the judge said that he did not regard Mr Francis-Love "in any way as a liar" when he answered questions incorrectly on applications for a firearms licence and to join a gun club.

"He was going through a difficult time in his life at the time and this demonstrated a remarkable and very serious lack of judgement on his part," said Judge Tabor.

"But the police were quite correct to refuse his application and therefore I do not uphold this appeal."

The judge ordered the appellant to pay £750 in costs but told Mr Francis-Love that he should appeal again in two or three years so long as he stayed out of trouble until then.

The court heard that Mr Francis-Love had a previous conviction for an ammunition offence and also for assault occasioning grievous bodily harm in 1986.

"I was in London and I encountered three drug addicts vandalising a vehicle, so I intervened," he said.

"One of them received injuries and I was convicted at Bow Street Magistrates Court of GBH."

At the appeal hearing earlier this year Kannan Siva, for the police, said the chief constable of Gloucestershire had refused to grant a firearms licence or shotgun certificate to Mr Francis-Love because of his 'history of convictions.'

In 1987 Mr Francis-Love had been convicted of an offence of causing grievous bodily harm to another man - and in 1996 he was convicted of possessing a firearm and ammunition without a certificate, Mr Siva said.

Then in 2001 he got a further conviction for possession of prohibited ammunition.

Det Supt Sellwood told the court Mr Francis-Love's 2001 conviction related to him being in possession of a Kalashnikov AK47 assault rifle.

Mr Francis-Love told the court that having the gun still in his possession was an 'oversight'.It had been left with him by a former military colleague and he had intended to hand it in but forgot.

At that time, he said, he was under a lot of pressure.

"I was being accused by the MoD police of killing Jill Dando and taking part in an aerial bombing," he said.

He told the court he did not declare to the gun club that he'd had his licence revoked because he genuinely forgot that had happened and in his own mind thought it had simply run out.

Judge Tabor suggested that to forget such a thing would be 'an appalling lapse of memory.' Mr Francis-Love agreed that was true.

He said when he filled out the club membership application form he was under the impression it would all be checked by the police so to have lied deliberately would have been a reckless act.

He said he had spent the last 15 years since his 2001 conviction staying out of trouble and working to prove he could be trusted with gun permits again.

He related how he has worked in the UAE as a military instructor and in Libya for an explosives disposal firm. He had also worked with people from the Foreign Office, he said.

He had performed all those jobs without any problems about his past being raised.

"I made my application to the club without any malicious intent. There was no fraud or deception involved at all. I had a firmly held belief that my licence had simply run out and this was a way of getting back into the sport I love. Since 2001 I have trod a very careful line."

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