Inquest shown footage of barrister's final moments
The final fatal actions of gunman barrister Mark Saunders were shown to an inquest jury today in dramatic footage filmed by a police helicopter.
The drunken 32-year-old could be seen waving a shotgun in the air as he hung from the fourth-storey kitchen window of his home in Markham Square, Chelsea.
As negotiators desperately pleaded with him to put the gun down via a loud hailer and mobile phone, the gunman slowly lowered the long-barrelled weapon.
As it reached a horizontal position a volley of shots rang out from armed officers stationed on and in three buildings that backed onto the property.
Mr Saunders doubled up and was flung back into his kitchen by the force of five bullets fired by seven officers that hit him in the head and chest causing fatal injuries.
The final shots came after three-and-a-half hours of extraordinary negotiations between Mr Saunders and a team of officers trying to end the siege peacefully.
Audio recordings of the negotiations, police tactical discussions and a 999 phone call by Mr Saunders were played at Westminster Coroner's Court, sitting in Marylebone.
They revealed that in Mr Saunders' last clear communication with police he said it would be "painless" to shoot himself and he wanted to speak to his wife to say goodbye.
Mr Saunders then told police he "needed to blow off some steam" before blasting the shotgun through his window again, at 9.09pm, provoking police to fire two shots that did not injure him.
Over the next 23 minutes, police unsuccessfully tried to re-establish contact with Mr Saunders as he stood at the kitchen window, holding the shotgun in one hand.
At 9.32pm, illuminated by a helicopter spotlight, Mr Saunders is seen holding the gun in the air and appears to shout at officers surrounding his home before he is fatally shot.
The inquest heard police negotiators struggle to maintain contact and open a dialogue with Mr Saunders, who one officer described as "absolutely hammered" in private discussion.
They repeatedly told the barrister that he was not going to die and begged him to put the shotgun down and go into another room in his house.
Police heard Mr Saunders repeatedly pick up the gun, loading and unloading it as he turned the safety catch on and off.
They listened as Mr Saunders vomited repeatedly, drank wine, fell down the stairs and complained he had broken his phone after calling his mobile.
Mr Saunders could be heard playing classical music and police later said they were struggling to hear him as he played songs by The Doors.
The inquest has heard he sent a text message to a close friend during the tense stand-off saying, "This is the end my only friend, the end", quoting a song by The Doors.
At one point Mr Saunders dialled 999, telling a baffled emergency operator he was in Markham Square and wanted to speak with a "hostage negotiator".
Asked what his name was, he replied: "Guy, guy in Markham Square."
Superintendent John Sutherland, who undertook the majority of negotiations, told Mr Saunders his wife Elizabeth was nearby and he could speak to her if he came out.
Listening to the police end of discussions, the inquest heard the senior officer tell the barrister he could get help for his "addiction to booze".
Shortly before the 9.09pm exchange of gunfire, the officer said: "You are not going to burst out and you are not going to get gunned down. Nobody is going to get hurt today. That is the deal."
Mr Sutherland then told the gunman to switch off the music, not to shoot out of the window and thanked him for putting the safety catch back on.
Explaining the police spotlight and armed officers, he said: "You are in the driving seat and when you come out of the front door you can talk it through."
Later, Mr Sutherland added: "Lets talk about the positives and what happens when you come out, which is you get help.
"You get to see and meet the people you love and love you. That is what is going to happen when you come out.
"This is all about beginnings and not about endings. You have got a future Mark.
"It might not be the one you necessarily planned but it is a good one.
"I happen to believe in the good in people and I know you have got a whole load of good in you. You are not one of them.
"There is nothing said or done since we started talking that has given me the slightest thought you are an unpleasant person.
"You haven't hurt anyone and haven't caused anyone any harm, you haven't wished anyone ill or malice. You are a gentleman, that is the bottom line.
"You just happen to be a gentleman who needs a helping hand today. That is why we are talking, that is why the police officers are here."
Mr Sutherland added: "You are not going to hurt yourself today Mark. You are not resigned to killing yourself. There is too much to live for, beginning with Liz and then the list goes on.
"How can we help you? How can it possibly be painless if you shoot yourself? It will cause her agony and I know how much you love her.
"You can do an enormous amount of good and I believe in the good in people."
As the senior officer stopped speaking, the boom of Mr Saunders firing his shotgun and the cracks of two police officers returning fire could be heard clearly.
With urgency in his voice, Mr Sutherland said: "What are you doing Mark? What are you doing? Mark, speak to me. Mark, speak to me please. Can you hear me?"
The officer said he could hear Mr Saunders moving around in the background and the helicopter thermal image shows the gunman in his kitchen.
Mr Sutherland added: "Can you still talk to me? You said you needed to blow off some steam. Mark, I can hear you walking inside. Mark, can you tell what's happened?
"Tell me what's happened in there. I can hear you kicking the door."
The senior officer then told colleagues: "The last thing he said to me was, 'I am going to blow off some steam'."
Negotiations with Mr Saunders began at about 7pm on May 6 2008, more than two hours after he blasted a shotgun through his window while on the phone to a friend.
The inquest heard Mr Sutherland fighting to hold Mr Saunders' attention and strike up a conversation as the line was repeatedly disconnected.
In the early stages, the senior officer sympathised with the barrister who said he was "scared" as the officer insisted police were "not coming in".
At one point he said: "It's been a heck of a day, hasn't it?" Later he added: "From the little I know, it's been a pretty rough day for you."
Mr Sutherland asked Mr Saunders what and how much he had drunk and whether he had taken any drugs or medication, but did not receive clear answers.
He said: "All I need you to do is leave the gun where you have got it and perhaps just leave for another room.
"You have my word that nobody is going to harm you. Listen Mark, you are not going to die today. It is as simple as that."
Mr Sutherland told the gunman "Nobody is suggesting you are a nut job" and that his wife and friend Michael Bradley were nearby and worried about him.
Mr Saunders repeatedly asked to speak to his wife and told the officer she was "lovely", she had been "duped" and he was "terrible with booze".
At one point a second negotiator, Inspector Sonia Davis, took over and told Mr Saunders he sounded like a "proper barrister" as they struggled to hear each other.
Meanwhile, Mr Saunders could be seen standing at the kitchen window, gesturing at firearms officers and holding a series of illegible notes to the smashed glass.
The inquest has heard these read "I am not a bad lad", "Please, I want to speak to my wife", "I don't know how this happened" and "I want to say goodbye and kill myself".
Shortly after 8pm, when the phone link to Mr Saunders is lost, the negotiators held a discussion about their tactics.
The inquest heard he repeatedly said, "I am not a threat to anybody but myself" and that he kept picking up and putting down the shotgun.
Police summarise the information they have, that Mr Saunders is a barrister, an alcoholic, well off and there may have been "domestic strife".
Describing attempts to negotiate by phone, one officer said: "That has gone tits up because the phone has gone down. He is irrational and not picking up the phone."
A senior officer says he wants two negotiators "kitted up" with armed CO19 on the roof of one of the Bywater Street properties close to Mr Saunders.
Mr Sutherland said: "He is absolutely hammered and he is still drinking while we are talking to him."
The officers discuss telling Mr Saunders he will be arrested for breach of the peace when he comes out, in a bid to minimise his actions.
One said he is "clearly dotty about his wife" and this is a good route to "engage with him emotionally."
The officers discussed how they will "try the girl", presumably Mrs Saunders, to negotiate if they cannot re-establish communication.
The family of the dead man have criticised police for not letting Mrs Saunders or others attempt to defuse the situation, despite the fact she asked to speak to her husband.
One police negotiator said there is an "implicit suggestion" he is thinking of shooting himself, adding he is so drunk he may do so accidentally.
The officers also discuss how Mr Saunders is worried about the impact of the siege on his career and that he will lose his shotgun licence.
One said: "This is not a bloke who wants to die. He has already mentioned two things about the future.
"The biggest danger is he shoots himself by mistake or comes wandering out with his gun and gets popped."
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