Police blunders shock family of man shot dead yards from home

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THREE WEEKS after a 46-year-old man was shot dead by armed police while carrying a wooden table leg in the street, shocking details have emerged of the way his family have been treated by police in the wake of the tragedy.

THREE WEEKS after a 46-year-old man was shot dead by armed police while carrying a wooden table leg in the street, shocking details have emerged of the way his family have been treated by police in the wake of the tragedy.

The funeral will take place today of Henry "Harry" Stanley, who was shot 100 yards from his front door after he was confronted by officers from Scotland Yard's specialist firearms unit as he returned from a local pub in east London.

Inquiries by The Independent have revealed that despite the proximity of the shooting to the family home, Mr Stanley's wife was not informed of her husband's death for more than 18 hours while officers scoured the area for evidence.

The failure to notify the family came in spite of Mr Stanley being in possession of his passport - which contained the address of his wife and of his brother - his bank book, his birth certificate and his father's death certificate.

The delay, which the family has described as "scandalous", prevented relatives or their medical and legal representatives being present when the first post-mortem examination took place, the morning after the shooting.

It is understood that police went to five incorrect addresses in their attempts to locate relatives. Some officers were wrongly under the impression that Mr Stanley was Irish, despite the fact that his personal documents showed he was a British citizen who lived in London.

The dead man's son, Jason, 26, said: "We are very angry. It does not take a good detective to know that a passport contains emergency contact numbers. My dad died only a couple of minutes from his front door but we had no idea.

"Dad was above all else an ordinary family man. If this could happen to him it could happen to anyone."

A Police Complaints Authority (PCA) spokesman said: "Whilst we had an indication as to who it was at an earlier stage, actually getting a correct address did not prove easy."

The appalling tragedy, which is the subject of an investigation being supervised by the PCA, is already likely to have far-reaching consequences for future police firearms operations.

But the complaints by the family will also damage public confidence in police commitments to work more sympathetically with bereaved families following the official report into the death of the black teenager Stephen Lawrence.

Deborah Coles, of Inquest, a group which investigates deaths in custody, said: "It is of vital importance the victim's family has a medical representative at the first post-mortem when crucial evidence is heard. The way this family has been treated is quite scandalous."

Today, at the City of London Crematorium, a lone piper playing "Flower of Scotland" will provide an emotional valediction for the Lanarkshire-born painter and decorator.

One of nine children of a steel-work driller, Harry had a hard upbringing in the mining town of Bellshill, outside Glasgow, where he met his future wife Irene when they were both aged 16.

Two years later, a chronic job shortage forced almost the entire family to relocate to London and the six Stanley boys - Tom, Sam, Jim, Pete, Harry and Andrew - helped each other find work on building sites. Harry later followed Jim into painting and decorating.

During the past 28 years, the Stanleys have become popular and well-known in the community living alongside Victoria Park in Hackney.

Harry was often seen with one or more of his siblings in The 39 Steps public house, sipping on a Southern Comfort and lemonade.

But on the night of 22 September, Harry - who was recovering from a serious operation - chose to break his journey home by stopping off in the Alexandra, one of the few local pubs where he was not recognised, for a glass of lemonade.

In his hand was a blue plastic bag containing a Queen Anne-style wooden coffee table leg which had been repaired by his handyman brother, Pete, after being damaged at a family party the previous New Year's Eve.

But the mysterious object attracted suspicion and a telephone call was made to the police, suggesting that Harry, who was dressed in jeans and a long brown jacket, was carrying a sawn-off shotgun.

As he left the pub, apparently walking the 500 yards home to watch a Manchester United game on television, armed police units were dispatched to track him down.

An inquest, which opened last month, heard that he was challenged twice before being shot by officers carrying Glock 9mm self-loading pistols.

Unknown to Mr Stanley, armed police officers had already been called to the vicinity of the Alexandra in a separate incident earlier the same evening. Officers from Scotland Yard's specialist firearms unit SO19 pursued suspects across London before apprehending them near the Hackney pub.

It was the same two officers who were ordered to respond less than an hour later when the 999 call about Mr Stanley was received by the police.

As the shots rang out, Irene Stanley was among the many locals who left their front doors to see what had happened.

She could see the feet of a man lying in the street but assumed it was no-one she knew and returned indoors.

Although her husband was carrying his passport, Mrs Stanley - who wrongly guessed that Harry had opted to spend the night at his brother's house - was not to learn of his death until 4.30pm the following day, six hours after the first post-mortem had taken place.

The inquest into Mr Stanley's death has been adjourned while Surrey Police conduct an investigation on behalf of the PCA. Before that is concluded, Harry's mother, his five brothers, three sisters, three children and three grand-children hope to have scattered his ashes on the battlefield at Bannockburn.

During three decades in London, Mr Stanley retained his Scots accent and often talked about "going home" but family responsibilities made this impractical. Instead, Mr Stanley devoured copious amounts of Scottish history, some of which he reproduced in a newsletter which he compiled on his home computer and called The Scotlander.

Jason said: "He loved the way people were up there. Everybody is friendly and and more relaxed. It's totally different from down here."

It is an irony of Harry Stanley's violent death that only two days earlier he had been celebrating the news that he had recovered successfully from an operation for colon cancer which had put him out of work for over a year.

Jason Stanley said that during his recovery period in Homerton hospital, east London, his father was "still a happy-go-lucky person". He said: "He was trying not to let everybody know how much it was worrying him. He just asked for his Irn-Bru to be brought in. He would always put a brave face on."

The family is concerned that every effort ismade to trace independent witnesses of the shooting.

An elderly couple who saw Mr Stanley being shot have now been tracked down, but police are still anxious to speak to three youths seen running away from the scene and a black male, aged approximately 40 with a scar on his face, who was driving a brown car nearby.

After the way the family has already been treated by the police, Jason Stanley is anxious that the inquiry into his father's death is just as vigorous as those into shootings where the trigger has not been pulled by a police officer.

He said: "The questions we have asked have been met with a bodyswerve. I haven't really had any straight answers."

Attempting to reassure the family, a PCA spokesman said yesterday: "We need to find the maximum number of independent witnesses to find out exactly what happened. Mr Stanley is the victim and he should be treated as such."