An experienced police marksman told an inquest that he was “100 per cent convinced” that Mark Duggan was carrying a weapon when he opened fire – but had no idea how the weapon ended on the other side of a fence more than 10 feet away.
The marksman – known only as V53 – today described the “freeze frame moment” when he fired two shots at the 29-year-old suspected gang member who had just leapt out of a minicab that had been forced to stop by a team of armed police in three unmarked cars.
The officer, known only as V53, claims he opened fire on Mr Duggan in self-defence because the father-of-four was pointing a gun hidden in a sock in his direction from just a few feet away. However a jury of eight women and three men has also previously heard that the gun was found more than 10 feet away from the site of the shooting and the dead man could have been carrying a mobile phone just before he was killed.
The officer, who cannot be named for legal reasons, told an inquest at the Royal Courts of Justice that he was in the third police car that pulled up right behind Mr Duggan’s minibus and he saw him slide open the door and jump out of the car.
Mr Duggan appeared to be trying to escape but faced by another armed officer, he spun round and faced V53 who saw for the first time that he was holding a gun in a sock, the marksman told a jury. Gunmen have previously held guns in a sock to prevent cartridges from being found near a shooting and to avoid leaving gun residue that could be traced forensically.
“The world has just stopped in my head. It’s like a freeze frame moment,” the officer told the inquest, speaking via video link from a room closed to the public to ensure his anonymity. “When he’s turned to face me the focus turned immediately to what was in his hand.”
He went on: “The only thing I was focused on was the gun, because he was carrying it like this…. at this time it was not a threat to me. The next thing he starts to do is move the gun away from his body.
“There’s a line in the sand now, there’s a tipping point… it’s now my honestly held belief that he is going to shoot me.”
The officer, who had been a serving officer for 14 years with a history of 50 armed operations, said that he fired the first of two rounds from his Heckler and Koch MP5 carbine that hit Mr Duggan in the right chest. As he was knocked back by the impact, the gun barrel swung towards him so he fired again. Mr Duggan then fell to the ground.
A gun in a sock was found on the other side of a fence next to the pavement where Mr Duggan was shot and died. Asked by Ashley Underwood QC, counsel for the inquest, how the gun got there, V53 said: “I don’t know sir, I would love to answer that question.”
V53 said that he saw Mr Duggan’s gun throughout the incident, but when he reassessed the scene as Mr Duggan was falling backwards “the gun wasn’t there,” he told the inquest. “It’s 804 days since this happened and I’m 100 per cent convinced he was in possession of the gun on shot one and shot two.”
The shooting led to protests in Tottenham and was the spark that triggered days of nationwide riots in the summer of 2011. “The Duggan family didn't start the riots, I didn't start the riots, but you can't ignore the fact that London and the country's burning, to a certain degree because of what's happened," he said.
The officer first went to help another office who he believed had been struck by a bullet. The officer was not hurt as the bullet passed through Mr Duggan’s body and lodged in the officer’s radio.
On the day of the shooting, police were acting on intelligence that suggested Mr Duggan had picked up a gun from another man. Kevin Hutchinson-Foster is serving a jail term for supplying the gun, but at the inquest denied having done so.