The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has admitted it "was a mistake" to announce that Mark Duggan, who was shot dead by police officers last August sparking widespread rioting, had been involved in a firefight with officers.
At a pre-inquest hearing at North London Coroner's Court yesterday, IPCC investigator Colin Sparrow was forced to admit that none of Mr Duggan's DNA, blood or fingerprints had been found on a non-police issue gun recovered from the scene in Tottenham, north London, where he was shot and killed on 4 August.
Michael Mansfield QC said his clients had suffered a "complete breakdown in confidence for this investigation".
The IPCC said in a statement that they had asked the firearms officers involved to attend tape-recorded interviews next month "to see whether witnesses need to be asked to clarify their evidence".
In a courtroom packed with Mr Duggan's friends and family, including his fiancée and mother of his children Semone Wilson, Mr Mansfield asked Mr Sparrow: "My first question is, do you appreciate the anxiety the family have about the investigation?
"And are you aware at least that one of the reasons is the misinformation that was broadcast at the beginning, close to the time Mark Duggan met his death? Misinformation suggesting some form of shoot-out, and do you accept that was a serious mistake?"
Mr Sparrow replied: "It wasn't accurate."
Mr Mansfield added: "It was a mistake, wasn't it?"
Mr Sparrow then said: "It was a mistake."
The hearing was told that a gun initially linked to Mr Duggan was actually found 14ft from the crime scene in Ferry Lane, on the other side of a fence.
Mr Mansfield said witnesses had claimed to see a police officer throw the weapon there. He asked Mr Sparrow: "How on earth did the gun get over a fence 14ft away? Was it thrown there by a police officer?"
Mr Sparrow said: "That's a suggestion, yes." The inquest proper will now begin in September next year, and will last between four and eight weeks.
After the hearing, the IPCC released a statement in which it said that Home Office pathologist Dr Simon Poole also found a second bullet had struck Mr Duggan's upper right arm.
It said two police-issue bullets and two police-issue shell casings had been recovered from the scene.
David Lammy, MP for Tottenham, said: "This was the first time the public were made aware of key elements of the case, particularly involving the gun. A gulf has opened up between the IPCC and Mr Duggan's family, as well as the public in general. If the IPCC are not acting on behalf of Mr Duggan's family, then who are they acting for?"
It was anger of the police's lack of contact with Mr Duggan's family that prompted 120 people to march from Tottenham's Broadwater Farm estate to the local police station, which became the starting point for the outbreak of social unrest that spread across London and then to other parts of the country over the next three nights.