AFTER searching every flat in a tower block, police have concluded £100,000 worth of stolen firearms have been sold off as air rifles.

The specialised sports shotguns and rifles were stolen from a lorry parked on the Burnt Mills Industrial Estate on April 18 and ten people were arrested in connection with the theft last week.

Police swarmed on the Poole House tower block on Godman Road in Chadwell St Mary after arresting a group of four men in Grays and, according to residents, systematically searched each flat to try and locate the stolen weapons.

However they now believe the guns, which are worth up to £20,000 each, may have been sold to people in the Thurrock area who believed or were deliberately misled into thinking they were buying air rifles.

Officers are appealing to anyone who thinks they may be in possession of one of the weapons to come forward – or face prison if they are later found to be so.

A police spokesman said: “A police operation to locate and recover these stolen firearms is currently underway in Thurrock and officers will respond to information given to them which indicates weapons are inside residential or commercial properties.

“If anyone is subsequently then found to be in possession of a firearm, they face possible arrest, and anyone convicted of this offence can be jailed for five years.”

A man was arrested in the Grays area on Friday evening on suspicion of handling the stolen guns and was later released on police bail until June pending further enquiries.

Four people have been charged with conspiring to steal the firearms from the lorry and are currently remanded in court custody until the end of July.

Anyone in possession of the firearms is urged to contact Essex Police on 999 or Crimestoppers anonymously on 0800 555111.