A FORMER Army captain stole rifles worth thousands of pounds from a Ministry of Defence museum collection, a court has heard.

Peter Laidler, who is also a former police officer, is accused of stealing an SA80 - the Army's standard issue automatic rifle - and components from the weapon as well as two Accuracy International L96 sniper rifles between 1998 and 2016.

Matthew Jewell QC, prosecuting, said 72-year-old Laidler, of Marcham, near Abingdon, had worked as the armourer for the Small Arms School Collection (SASC) at Warminster, Wiltshire, where the weapons were allegedly stolen.

The SASC is an MoD collection showing the development of small weapons from the 16th century to the present day.

Mr Jewell told Winchester Crown Court: "The prosecution says that Mr Laidler stole weapons and parts of weapons belonging to the Army during his time working at the Small Arms School Collection.

"We say he didn't have permission to take any of those parts or weapons or treat them as his own but that is precisely what he did. In short form, he stole them."

Also on trial is 61-year-old Roger Smith, an MoD police officer from Emsworth, Hampshire, who is accused of one count of handling stolen goods in relation to an SA80.

Mr Jewell said the two defendants had known each other for "many years" and both had a "keen interest in firearms".

Smith and Laidler, who faces four counts of theft, deny the charges and the trial continues.