Family of shot man furious over suicide theory

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The Independent Online

The family of an unarmed man who was shot dead by police in the street while carrying a wooden table leg were told by investigating officers that he may have been carrying out a bizarre suicide plan.

Officers suggested to relatives of Harry Stanley, 46, who was hit by bullets from two police marksmen last September, that he wanted to die because he had recently hadsurgery for cancer.

The theory has infuriated the Stanley family, who claim that police investigating the death on an east London street have gone out of their way to exonerate the officers involved.

Next month Surrey Police, who are investigating the shooting on behalf of the Police Complaints Authority (PCA), will send their report to the Crown Prosecution Service, which will consider criminal charges against the two officers.

Last night, the Stanley family's solicitor, Daniel Machover, said: "The family's understanding is that the police have floated this theory as a result of cases in the United States where it is well known that police are armed and people might put themselves in harm's way if they are feeling suicidal.

"In the circumstances of this case, I think it was wholly inappropriate for police to suggest this was even a possibility."

Mr Machover said he "accepted" that police must explore all possible theories butsaid there was nothing to recommend the suicide notion because Mr Stanley's surgeryhad been "100 per cent successful".

Mr Stanley was killed shortly after 7.30pm on 22 September as he was walking home to watch a televised football match, carrying a leg of a coffee table which had been repaired by his brother.

He had gone into a pub for a glass of lemonade and a member of the public became suspicious of the table leg, which was tightly wrapped in a plastic bag. A 999 call was made to the police, mistakenly reporting that an Irishman - Mr Stanley was originally from Scotland - had left the pub carrying a shotgun.

Mr Stanley was shot 100 yards from his front door after being confronted by officers from Scotland Yard's specialist firearms unit.

His relatives, who have made a formal complaint to the PCA about the Surrey investigation, which will be investigated in turn by Suffolk Police, claim officers were hostile to the family.

Friends arriving at the house to pay their respects were asked for their names and addresses by police.

Deborah Coles, of Inquest, a charity which investigates deaths in custody, said: "The family felt that the police were interrogating family members and that they and Harry Stanley were being investigated in an attempt to deflect attention away from police conduct."

The family have complained that police took 20 hours to notify them of the death althoughhe was carrying his passport, containing his address and details of his next of kin, at the time of his death. They also claim that officers misled the family into thinking that the costs of Mr Stanley's funeral would be met. The Metropolitan Police later declined to pay.

An inquest into Mr Stanley's death has been opened and adjourned pending the police investigation and possible court proceedings.

Last night in the House of Commons, the family's MP,Brian Sedgemore - the Labour member for Hackney South and Shoreditch - was due to raise the case as part of an adjournment debate on police shootings. Mr Sedgemore was expected to call for improved training of firearms officers.