Police lose anonymity at inquest into shooting

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The Independent Online

A coroner ordered two police marksmen yesterday to reveal their identities at an inquest into the death of a man they shot as he was carrying a coffee table leg in the street.

Dr Stephen Chan, the St Pancras coroner, refused a request by the two officers from Scotland Yard's SO19 firearms squad to remain anonymous when giving evidence before a jury.

The officers, an inspector and a police constable, opened fire on Henry Bruce "Harry" Stanley, 46, while he was walking home from a public house in September 1999.

At the opening of his inquest yesterday, Mr Stanley's widow, Irene, 49, sobbed as she told the jury that her husband had visited his brother to have the table leg repaired and was going home for his tea. She said Mr Stanley was shot 50 yards from his front door in Hackney, east London.

Clifford Willing, a drinker in a nearby pub, told the jury that he had called police and told them an Irishman with a gun had just left the building, after mistaking the table leg for a firearm.

Earlier, Michael Egan, representing the two officers, made an application to the court for them to give evidence anonymously. He said the officers, who he alleged had been subjected to threats, would have preferred to give evidence from behind screens but accepted this was not practical in a small courtroom.

Dr Chan rejected the application, saying he did not accept that there was "any threat from the deceased's family or indeed from any quarter to the officers themselves".

Mr Stanley was born in Bellshill, Strathclyde, and lived among a large extended family in east London. The decorator had been diagnosed with colon cancer and was recovering from a successful operation.

Mrs Stanley said: "He was happy, out of hospital and 85 per cent clear of cancer. He was just happy to be alive and see his grandchildren growing up. Every day was precious."

She said he left home on 22 September 1999 to visit his brother Sam, who lived near by, and repair the broken table leg.

The inquest was given written evidence from Mr Stanley's brothers Peter and Sam that they helped to repair the table leg, which was about 15in (40cm) long. Sam gave Harry a blue plastic bag in which to carry the piece of furniture.

The inquest was told Mr Stanley visited four local pubs on his way home.

Mr Willing, who was in the Alexandra pub, told the inquest that early in the evening armed police surrounded a car outside the building in an unrelated incident. Shortly afterwards, Mr Stanley walked in, ordered a lemonade and placed his plastic bag on the floor. As he left the pub, Mr Willing called 999.

Michael Wood QC, for the Metropolitan Police, read out a transcript of the call, in which Mr Willing said that an "Irish" man had "just walked in a pub with a gun". When the police operator asked Mr Willing about the weapon, he said: "It looks, it actually looks like a sawn-off shotgun in a blue plastic carrier bag." Mr Stanley was fatally shot minutes later.

The inquest is due to last a week, with the firearms officers giving evidence tomorrow.