Police shot dead suspect despite `no evidence' of crime

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The Independent Online
A POLICE force, whose officers shot dead an unarmed man in his bedroom, had "no evidence" to suggest he was responsible for the crime - an attempted murder - that they were investigating, an independent inquiry said yesterday.

James Ashley, 39, was shot as he stood naked by his bed in his flat in St Leonards, East Sussex, last January. He was hit once in the chest after officers burst into his flat at 4am.

In 1993, he was jailed for two years for the manslaughter of man he killed during a brawl in a pub in Eastbourne.

Shortly after the shooting, Paul Whitehouse, the Chief Constable of Sussex, said officers had been investigating alleged drugs trafficking and the attempted murder of a man stabbed outside a pub in Hastings.

He added: "I am satisfied that the operation was carried out properly. The decision to mount the operation with armed officers was correct and the planning was carried out carefully."

But the independent Police Complaints Authority yesterday issued a statement saying there was no evidence on the police file to indicate that Mr Ashley had carried out the stabbing the police were investigating.

Four officers, a superintendent, two inspectors and a constable, were suspended from Sussex on full pay on Saturday.

Tony Williams, a member of the inquiry team led by Barbara Wilding, Assistant Chief Constable of Kent, said in a statement yesterday: "Since the fatal shooting of James Ashley on January 15 there have been various references which either state or might imply that he was being sought by Sussex Police as a suspect for a stabbing incident that occurred on January 7.

"As part of the continuing investigation into the shooting, officers have examined the file relating to this incident. It is clear that there was no evidence to indicate that Mr Ashley carried out this stabbing.

"In fairness to the deceased and his family, we feel it is important to make this clear."

At the time of the raid, police arrested three other men at other addresses in the town.

Sussex Police declined to comment yesterday.