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Officer `shot unarmed suspect'

An armed policeman shot and fatally wounded an unarmed suspected car thief in a busy street, a court heard yesterday. The case is believed to be the first time a police officer has been charged with murder for an offence allegedly committed while on duty.

Constable Patrick Hodgson, 49, shot David Ewin, 38, twice in the arm and stomach with a handgun, in what a fellow police officer believed was not an armed incident, a jury at the Old Bailey was told. PC Hodgson has denied murdering Mr Ewin, who died two weeks later in hospital from internal injuries.

After the shooting PC Hodgson kept repeating "Why didn't he do as he was told?" and that he had no choice, said John Bevan, prosecuting. But, the prosecution told the jury: "If shooting Ewin was the only option, it is tantamount to saying that any car thief, driving recklessly, may reasonably be shot by a police officer."

PC Hodgson was part of a three-person crew of a Metropolitan Police armed response vehicle that had spotted a reportedly stolen car in Barnes, south-west London, in February last year. Mr Ewin ran out of a shop when the police arrived and got into the stolen Toyota.

PC Hodgson and his colleague PC Patrick Kelly had got out of their vehicle. The court was told that PC Hodgson managed to grab Mr Ewin round the neck through the open car window. There was a brief struggle. PC Hodgson was in danger of being squashed between two cars and he began smashing his gun against the windscreen and shouting "armed police" before jumping clear and going around to the passenger side of the car.

"PC Hodgson took up a crouched stance at the passenger door pointing his gun at Ewin. PC Kelly described himself as ... confused and shocked because at no time did he regard what was happening as an armed incident," said Mr Bevan. Two shots were then fired.

PC Hodgson said he shot Mr Ewin because he feared for his own life and for civilians. But Mr Bevan said that PC Hodgson and members of the public were not in danger from Mr Ewin.

The case continues.