Police play the waiting game at Hull siege

A woman has been held as a hostage in her home for 10 days. Jason Bennetto reports
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The Independent Online
It is day 10 of the siege of the Orchard Park Estate. For more than 240 hours, Steven Wood has been holding a hostage at gunpoint in a terrace house on a council estate in Hull, Humberside.

Mr Wood, 39, a convicted kidnapper, believes he is a misunderstood man and as part of the negotiating process, the police allowed him access to the local evening newspaper. Some days they have even agreed for it to be delivered, making him the only reader of the Hull Daily Mail to have his paper arrive under armed escort.

He has told the paper: "I felt I had to do something like this. I have tried going about it the right way, but have been refused help - what choice do I have."

Humberside Police believe he has a choice and should end what has become one of the country's longest sieges. In the meantime, they are waiting behind about a dozen 12ft-high wooden fences erected at one end of a row of houses on the estate. Before the screen was installed, residents had to run about 30 yards, protected by a police officer with a bulletproof shield. Spotlights are trained on the house, as are the telescopic sights of police marksmen in the tarpaulin and sandbag "foxholes" that surround it.

Meanwhile, Mr Wood's world is shrinking. The houses around him were evacuated 10 days ago and their inhabitants moved to neighbouring homes.The electricity and gas have been cut off and his 40-year-old hostage has been living on a diet of Coca Cola, chocolate, bread, cakes and tea. He has apparently also been taking amphetamine sulphate - speed - to help him stay awake. Yesterday there were unconfirmed reports that the water had been switched off. His only contact with the outside world is a police negotiator who sits yards away, on the end of a special telephone link. Members of his family have tried in vain to persuade him to give himself up.

Mr Wood is used to being locked up. He was sentenced to five years for kidnapping and other offences. He was released in February after serving three-and-a-half years of the jail term. As he told the newspaper in a telephone interview: "I've been in a prison cell and this is nothing compared to that."

His latest period of incarceration began on Saturday 10 June after Mr Wood apparently had an argument with a man in a pub on the estate, where he reportedly has a flat which he uses rarely.

He then went to the home of a woman who was with her 20-year-old daughter. At about 11pm worried neighbours contacted the police and reported that a man was holding two women captive. Since then, about 30 police officers and a clutch of journalists have kept a vigil nearby..

On day 5, Mr Wood gave his newspaper interview, in which he said he wanted to clear his name which he believes has been unfairly damaged. He said: "There were just so many things which could have come out [at the trial] but didn't."

Last Saturday - day 7 - the police got their first big break, but not before three shots were fired from a gun inside the house. At about 11pm, the 20-year-old woman was released unharmed. Her mother and captor were also uninjured. Yesterday - day 10 - the police were waiting. It was a hot day and their patience, and that of the people living nearby, is becoming strained.

At first residents of the estate saw it as a welcome distraction. But Julie Collinson, 26, said: "People think the police have waited long enough and should go and get him out. At first it was a buzz, a laugh, but everyone wants it over now, they've had enough."

The police operation costs an estimated pounds 50,000 a day. Nevertheless, Chief Inspector Quent Dowse said: "We are playing the waiting game and trying to persuade him to come out peacefully. We are prepared to wait for as long as it takes. We want a happy ending, not a tragedy."

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