Hitman 'killed wrong woman'

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The Independent Online
A woman died in a hail of bullets when she answered her front door to a killer posing as a pizza delivery man, an inquest was told yesterday.

Karen Reed, 33, probably died because the hitman mistook her for her sister Alison Ponting, the Surrey coroner, Michael Burgess, was told.

Miss Ponting was almost certainly the target because her husband, the Armenian-born Gagic Ter-Ogannsyan, was convicted of murdering two brothers who came to Britain to set up a Chechen embassy.

The killing occurred on 30 April last year, when Miss Reed's friend, Ann Smith, went to her home in Woking, Surrey, to spend the evening. She told the court that there was a knock at about 9.15pm."Karen opened the door partly . . . I could see the figure was a man. He was holding a blue and white pizza box and he said 'Have you ordered a pizza?' "

Ms Smith said Miss Reed said she had not ordered anything. "He said, 'Is this 31 Willow Way?' Karen said, 'Yes'. The next thing I heard was three loud bangs. I realised it was a gun." Ms Smith said she called an ambulance but by the time it arrived her friend was dead.

Miss Ponting, 31, told police she was convinced the gunman was trying to kill her because of her husband's conviction.

The hearing was told that two weeks before the shooting police had chased a car in the Woking area. The driver ran off and an automatic pistol with a silencer was found in a holdall along with hollowed-out bullets filled with mercury.

The coroner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Detective Superintendent John Stewardson, who headed the police investigation, said later there was not enough evidence to suggest a definite reason for Miss Reed's murder but police had not ruled out the mistaken-identity theory.