The 43-year-old homeless man had been looking through rubbish bins near the Canal Saint-Martin, in the 19th arrondissement on April 28th, when he stumbled across a weapons caché in one of the containers, according to French media reports on Thursday.
The homeless man, originally from Bulgaria, alerted police, who were astonished by what greeted them at the bottom of a large waste bin at Place Stalingrad.
A 6.35-calibre automatic pistol, four grenades, 16 rounds of ammunition, and a mortal shell for an M-58 armoured vehicle, as used by the French army, were all stashed in the ordinary plastic bin.
“This was a completely inconsiderate act, because the weapons were still operational and could have fallen into the wrong hands,” an investigator told French radio RTL on Thursday.
Police immediately called in the bomb disposal squad and created a security perimeter around the rubbish bins. The deadly arms stash was secured and removed from the area.
The eagle-eyed homeless man also alerted police to a wooden box filled with grenades in the same area, which was disposed of by a dump truck.
The arms, described as operational by police sources, had been lying unattended in the busy public intersection of Stalingrad, in north-eastern Paris.
Police were quickly able to identify the weapons as belonging to a local collector who had recently died.
His family, seeking to get rid of the lethal arms, apparently simply decided to throw them out along with the rest of their rubbish.