A man who kept an astonishing arsenal of weapons at his home was jailed when he appeared at court for sentencing today.

William Hesketh, 58, pleaded guilty to eight firearms offences after his home in St Helens was raided by police in December 2019.

In an outside shed, officers found a large number of weapons including 23 air rifles, 24 air pistols and 11 imitation firearms.

A total of 176 items were seized including axes, machetes, swords, flick, gravity, butterfly and zombie knives, a knuckle duster, brass bullet cases, ball bearings, and blank rounds of ammunition.

A search of Hesketh's home in Mill Lane, Sutton Leach, found another prohibited firearm in a drawer under his bed.

The court heard that Hesketh was a collector of a variety of bizarre items - including Lynx deodorants - as well as guns and knives.

A number of weapons were held legally but were surrendered to police

Sarah Griffin, prosecuting, said: "When asked what it was and why it was kept where it was found the defendant stated, 'in case we were broken into.'

"The defendant stated that he had been the victim of a burglary in the past and he 'forgot it was there.'

"The gun was found to contain ammunition which had been altered by placing a ball bearing into it which the defendant admitted doing himself. The defendant admitted knowing that this was wrong.

"The defendant confirmed that all weapons belonged to him. He stated that he had acquired them through various means including car boot sales, outdoor pursuit shops and online retailers in France.

"The defendant admitted that all alterations to ammunition were made by him."

Ms Griffin said that although the imitation weapon - described as a "starting pistol" - found under the bed had been amateurishly adapted to fire ball bearings, tests revealed it was still capable of being used as a deadly weapon.

Other weapons were also found to be "viable" and could be used to fire either ammunition, or noxious liquids or gases.

In interview, Hesketh said he collected air rifles and had had such weapons since he was a child.

Terrifying haul of weapons found during a raid at a house in Sutton Leach, St Helens

Gary Lawrenson, defending, said Hesketh - whom he described as a "fragile, emotional man" - had been registered disabled since falling out of a tree to retrieve a kite in front of his children in 1992.

He said: "That changed everything and is when his mental health issues began.

"He lost his mother, for whom he was the primary carer for a number of years, and has tried to commit suicide on at least three occasions.

"He was burgled, which was why he tried to make this starting pistol into a very loud BB gun, turning it into a deadly weapon in doing so.

Terrifying haul of weapons found during a raid at a house in Sutton Leach, St Helens

"He is a shattered 58-year-old man, who is much older than that physically and mentally."

Judge Stuart Driver QC, said that, despite Hesketh's poor physical and mental health, this remained a serious case.

Jailing Hesketh for three years, the judge told him: "You kept this weapon under your bed to scare an intruder. Other weapons were capable of doing that.

"You intended it to be used if necessary to discharge improvised ammunition at an intruder. You did so in an amateurish way, which made the weapon not really capable of firing a missile in the normal way. Experts had to go to some length to get it to do so."