Schoolchildren found a sawn-off shotgun linked to one of Tipu Sultan's alleged killers hidden in undergrowth, murder jurors have heard.
Three 13-year-old boys discovered the deadly weapon in a bushed area off Quarry Lane in South Shields last August as they searched for a BMX ramp they had built earlier.
One of the youths told police: "We didn't know what to do with it and we were worried we would get into trouble for touching it."
Newcastle Crown Court heard the gun has not been proved to be the murder weapon used to kill the takeaway boss, from Sunderland, at his shop Herbs and Spices,
in South Shields, last April.
But the weapon can be linked, through DNA found in blood traces on the weapon, to Michael McDougall.
Prosecutors claim McDougall, 47, was the gunman who was driven to and from the scene of Mr Sultan's killing on a motorbike by Michael Mullen, 24.
The men are being tried by a jury.
Prosecutor Richard Wright QC read statements from the three boys who found the weapon when they went out to play on the summer afternoon.
The boys said the gun was in a black tube which had a screw top and was difficult to remove.
The court heard the barrel and handle were in two separate parts inside the container.
After inspecting the weapon, the boys said they put the parts back and left everything as they had found it.
One boy said: "We continued looking for the BMX ramp, which we found.
"I got home at about 8.30 and told my mam about what I had seen and she rang the police."
Another boy said he had "started shaking" the container when they first found it.
The third boy said: "We didn't know what to do with it and we were worried we would get into trouble for touching it so we put it back in the plastic cylinder and back where we found it.
"We went to the beach for a couple of hours before going home for tea."
Mullen, of Hawthorne Avenue, South Shields, and McDougall, of Hylton Avenue, both deny murder, manslaughter and possession of a firearm.
Mullen denies conspiring to pervert the course of justice and McDougall denies a further possession of a firearm charge.