Officers arrested over Stanley shooting

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The Independent Online

Two police marksmen have been arrested on suspicion of murder, five years after they shot dead an unarmed man.

Harry Stanley, 46, from Hackney, east London, was shot in the head and hand in the street in September 1999 after a table leg he was carrying in a bag was mistaken for a gun.

Chief Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan, firearms officers with the Metropolitan Police, were arrested on suspicion of murder, gross negligence, manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice and bailed in connection with the case yesterday.

The arrests follow the discovery of new forensic evidence that is understood to call into question the statements given by the two officers about the shooting.

At an inquest in 2004, a Home Office forensic scientist who examined the bullet wounds to Mr Stanley's head and hand, said the position of entry and exit wounds contradicted the statements given by the two officers.

The officers had told the inquest that Mr Stanley had turned around "in a slow, deliberate, fluid motion" and pointed his wrapped-up table leg at PC Fagan, adopting a classic firing posture, which prompted Chief Insp Sharman to open fire, hitting him in the head.

The case has been one of the most controversial shootings in recent years. It provoked an unofficial strike by more than 100 Met firearms officers last November when the two officers were suspended after an inquest jury ruled that they had unlawfully killed Mr Stanley. The inquest verdict was quashed by the High Court last month following a legal challenge by the officers.

The Crown Prosecution Service is currently considering whether any criminal charges should be brought against the officers. A police officer has never been charged before with committing a murder while on duty.

Mr Stanley, a painter and decorator, was shot dead after someone telephoned the police and told them that they had seen an Irishman with a sawn-off shotgun in a bag. Mr Stanley, who had three children and was originally from Lanarkshire, Scotland, was carrying a blue plastic bag with a coffee table leg inside, which had just been repaired by his brother.

He visited several pubs on his way home, and was twice over the legal drink-drive limit at the time of his shooting.

The two officers told the second inquest that they opened fire after shouting at Mr Stanley: "Stop, armed police." The officers had approached him from behind with their weapons drawn.

They claimed he had turned round and faced them, and raised the object they believed to be a gun in a classic gunshot pose, as if he was about to open fire.

PC Fagan told the inquest that he shouted "drop it", only to be faced by Mr Stanley in a "boxer's stance".

PC Fagan shot Mr Stanley in the hand and his senior colleague hit him with a single shot in the head.

The first inquest into Mr Stanley's death in June 2002 returned an open verdict - a decision which his family subsequently had overturned at a High Court hearing.

A second inquest, at St Pancras Coroner's Court last October, returned a verdict of unlawful killing, prompting a fresh investigation into the case by Surrey Police.

The two officers were questioned by detectives from Surrey's major crime department yesterday morning.

A statement from Surrey Police said: "The review has led to the discovery of new forensic evidence.

"As a result, two Metropolitan Police officers aged 38 and 42 were today arrested on appointment on suspicion of murder, gross negligence, manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice by Surrey Police officers in relation to the death of Harry Stanley.

"The officers have been bailed to return to a Surrey police station on 16 June 2005, pending further inquiries."

Scotland Yard said the two officers remained at work, on non-operational duties.

Assistant Commissioner Steve House, head of the Met's central operations, said: "These officers were asked to make a split-second life-and-death decision as a result of the armed policing duties they had volunteered for. Six years later, their decision is still being examined by the legal system. How many of us would want to be in that position?"

Glen Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation - which represents the force's rank-and-file officers - said the two men had been subjected to "appalling treatment" and pledged the Federation's "full and unwavering support".

Daniel Machover, the lawyer representing the Stanley family, commented: "The family has noted today's development and is awaiting an early decision on criminal charges.

"They are again calling for the officers to be suspended from all duties."

A six-year struggle

September 1999

Harry Stanley, 46, was shot as he walked home in Hackney, London, from a pub carrying a table leg, which the officers mistook for a sawn-off shotgun.

June 2002

An inquest jury returns an open verdict. They had not been allowed to consider possible verdicts of unlawful killing or gross negligence manslaughter.

February 2003

Mr Stanley's family get permission to apply at the High Court for a fresh inquest on the grounds that a verdict of unlawful killing was wrongly withheld from the first inquest.

April 2003

Mr Justice Silber, at the High Court in London, orders a fresh inquest.

October 2004

An inquest jury returns an unlawful killing verdict.

Days later Chief Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan from the Met Police's firearms unit S019 are suspended from duty.

The CPS considers whether to charge them.

November 2004

Met firearms officers threaten to lay down their weapons in protest at the suspensions forcing the Met Police Commissioner Sir John Stevens to step in.

Both officers are allowed to return to work on "non-operational duties".

May 2005

The High Court quashes unlawful killing verdict.

June 2005

The two are arrested on suspicion of murder, gross negligence, manslaughter and conspiracy to pervert the course of justice in connection with the death.