X Factor finalist Anthony Russell has been snapped posing with another criminal pal, this time a convicted gun dealer.
The star, who came third in Sunday’s final, is seen here with Lee Malone.
Malone got 10 years’ jail in 2010 for selling three Glock handguns to an undercover police officer. The photo of the pair emerged just days after the Mirror published a snap of Russell joking about with killer Michael Sands.
A source close to Russell, 28, last night insisted Malone was not a close pal. They said: “Anthony doesn’t know this man well. He’s not really a friend. He’s more of an acquaintance. He’s only met him a handful of times in his life.”
The source said the snap, uploaded to Anthony’s Instagram last year, was a promotional shot to plug a T-shirt brand.
Russell is said to have insisted to pals he did not know of Malone’s jail term when he posed with him. But it will cause more concern in the X Factor camp, with contestants gearing up for a UK tour. After the Mirror ran snaps of Russell with Sands, sources said the singer was “severely reprimanded” by boss Simon Cowell.
And, during the show’s live final, judge Robbie Williams warned Russell: “Now, listen. What you’ve got to do now is to stay on the path of the righteous.”
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In 2010, Liverpool crown court heard that Malone agreed a gun sale with an undercover officer for £10,800. Malone also said he was “good for 10 more Glocks”. He pleaded guilty to firearm charges and was sentenced to 10 years.
On Saturday, we told how Russell captioned his snap with pal Sands: “Nice day with the fellas my man Mike day oner!” Russell said: “I can only apologise if this photo has upset anyone.”
An X Factor source said: “He has put his career at risk.”
Sands, then 22, was convicted of manslaughter for beating Neil Murphy, 18, to death in Liverpool in 2010. He got eight and a half years’ jail. A peak audience of 7.5 million saw Dalton Harris win X Factor on Sunday.
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