Police marksmen kill pensioner in flats siege

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The Independent Online

A pensioner holding his wife hostage at gunpoint was shot dead by police marksmen, residents said tonight.

Armed response vehicles and police dog handlers raced to the village of Fernhurst, in West Sussex, shortly before lunchtime.

Neighbours said they surrounded a block of retirement flats in a street called The Leys.

They said there were reports that the man, in his 60s, was depressed.

One eyewitness said officers used a loud hailer to encourage the man to leave the flat before the fatal shot was fired.

Another said she heard a policewoman shout "We have stunned him, get an ambulance" during the confrontation.

The woman added that a neighbour told her: "It was a chap sitting in his flat with a gun to his wife."

A drinker at the Duke of Cumberland pub in the village said police had been called to a hostage situation.

The man, who declined to be named, said: "I was told there was a hostage situation and it was an elderly man with an ill wife.

"Apparently he was armed and would not let anyone come near."

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said an investigation had been launched and officials were at the scene.

A woman living in Ash Grove, which is just off The Leys, said the incident took place in the block of retirement flats in which she lives.

The pensioner, who did not want to give her name, said police had told residents to stay in their homes.

"The police are still here," she said. "They have been here since midday. They won't let us out.

"I haven't heard any shooting. There was a dog handler earlier and there are at least eight policemen out here, in the courtyard outside."

She said the incident must have taken place on the other side of the block of eight flats.

"It's inside one of the flats," she said.

One resident said a man in his 60s was seen waving a gun in front of other pensioners at a warden-controlled property in the village.

He said armed police officers and dog handlers raced into the village and cordoned off the area.

A woman, who lives in Ash Grove and declined to be named, said the dead man was a neighbour.

She said: "The police are still very much there but I don't want to say any more because I knew the man involved."

An IPCC spokeswoman said: "The IPCC is to independently investigate the fatal shooting of a man in Fernhurst (near Midhurst) in West Sussex this afternoon.

"At approximately 3pm Sussex Police referred the incident to the IPCC. IPCC investigators have been deployed to the scene to start the inquiry."

A Sussex Police spokesman said: "We were called to an incident that started just before lunchtime in Fernhurst." He declined to comment further.

South East Coast Ambulance Service refused to comment.

Fernhurst, a village of some 3,000 residents, lies about three miles south of Haslemere close to the borders of Surrey and Hampshire.

It won West Sussex village of the year in 2007.