A friend of Boston Marathon bombing suspect Dzhokhar Tsarnaev is believed to have provided the handgun used to kill a Massachusetts Institute of Technology police officer during the manhunt.

Stephen Silva made an initial court appearance on charges related to heroin trafficking and possession of a handgun with an obliterated serial number.

The 9mm Ruger pistol described in the indictment is the same handgun that was used to kill MIT police officer Sean Collier during the manhunt for the bombing suspects, two people with knowledge of the investigation said

The grand jury indictment, which was filed on July 15, does not mention Mr Collier’s killing or any connection to Tsarnaev.

The origin of the gun was among the lingering mysteries of the investigation into the April 2013 attack, in which three people were killed and more than 260 were injured when twin bombs exploded near the finish line.

Mr Collier, a 26-year-old MIT campus police officer, was ambushed several days later and shot multiple times in his car.

According to the indictment, Silva knowingly had possession of the gun, “which had the importer’s and manufacturer’s serial number removed, obliterated, and altered and had previously been shipped and transported in interstate and foreign commerce”.

The indictment also alleges that Silva conspired to distribute heroin this summer in the Boston area.

Silva is a friend of Dzhokhar Tsarnaev. He said in court yesterday that he graduated from Cambridge Rindge and Latin School in 2011, the same year as Tsarnaev.

Silva was ordered to remain in custody ahead of a bail hearing scheduled for August 6.

Dzhokhar’s brother, Tamerlan Tsarnaev, was killed in a shoot-out with police several days after the bombings.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev escaped but was soon found, wounded and hiding in a boat dry-docked in a back garden in suburban Watertown.

Dzhokhar Tsarnaev has pleaded not guilty and is scheduled for trial in November. He faces the possibility of the death penalty if convicted.

Four other men have been charged with crimes related to the bombing investigation.

On Monday, a federal grand jury found Azamat Tazhayakov guilty of obstruction of justice and conspiracy for trying to protect Tsarnaev by agreeing with another friend, Dias Kadyrbayev, to get rid of a backpack and disable fireworks they took from his room.

Kadyrbayev is to be tried next month on the same charges. Tazhayakov and Kadyrbayev are both natives of Kazakhstan.

Robel Phillipos, who is charged with lying to investigators about being in the room with Kadyrbayev and Tazhayakov the night the items were taken, is to have a separate trial in September.

And a friend of Tamerlan Tsarnaev, Khairulluzon Matanov, will be tried next year on charges that he lied to investigators about the extent of his friendship with Tamerlan Tsarnaev and the contact he had with both brothers in the days following the bombings.

A lawyer for Silva, Jonathan Shapiro, said that he had received the case only a few hours earlier.

“According to news reports, law-enforcement officials say it is the same weapon that was used ... in the MIT officer Sean Collier shooting. However, this has not been charged in the indictment,” Mr Shapiro said.

“I am in the process of meeting with my client and reviewing the available evidence which will eventually be presented in a court of law in accordance with our system of justice.

“Out of respect for that system and for my client, I cannot make any further comment on the case.”

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