AN illegal firearm cocked ready to be fired was cut from the sleeve of an Albanian criminal approached by police on the forecourt of a County Durham filling station, a court heard.

The man, purporting to be a Greek national, Christos Papadimitriou, was seen at the wheel of a BMW X3 vehicle, containing three people, which was followed by a marked police car from the A689 near Wynyard, at 9.30pm on April 7, last year.

Durham Crown Court was told it pulled into a petrol station in Ferryhill.

The driver was told to get out of the car and asked if he had any weapons on him.

He said: “In my hand”, but there was nothing there.

After a ‘pat’ search, he was placed in the police car, where he said: “I will let you know I have a gun with me.”

An officer felt the shape of a large cylinder close to the left elbow of the man's forearm.

David Lamb, prosecuting, said the weapon, a short-barreled firearm with a fitted silencer, was extricated from the defendant’s coat sleeve.

He was arrested and made no reply but confirmed the weapon was loaded ready to be fired.

Examination of the self-loading pistol revealed it contained a live round within the chamber and other ammunition in the magazine.

It was found to be a replica of a Russian-made police service pistol, illegally smuggled into this country.

He was interviewed with the assistance of a Greek interpreter but gave “no comment” replies.

Inquiries with Interpol revealed the defendant, living in Hayes in Middlesex at the time, is actually an Albanian national, Aleksander Dedukaj, 40, who has served a five-year prison sentence in his native country for a “narcotics” offence and is subject to an international arrest warrant.

He admitted possessing a prohibited firearm, silencer and ammunition.

Liam O’Brien, for the defendant, said in his six years in the UK, Dedukaj's only conviction was for a driving offence in Hampshire.

Judge Jonathan Carroll said there was no apparent reason why he should not impose the mandatory five-year minimum jail term and, with aggravating features of this case, he imposed a six-year sentence.

He said it appeared that whatever the intended use of the weapon, the inference was that it was, “for some serious form of criminality.”

The judge’s sentencing remarks will be passed on to the Home Office to assist any decision as to whether the defendant should be deported on his release from prison.