Bomb fears delay death siege probe

Dave Higgens,Pa
Wednesday 29 December 2010 18:44

An investigation into how a 42-year-old man was shot dead by police following a seven-hour-long siege at his home was delayed due to fears the house was rigged with explosives.

Alistair Bell was shot dead yesterday morning after a night-long stand-off with armed officers at his home in Kirkheaton, near Huddersfield, West Yorkshire.

Bell fired a number of shots during the siege and the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which is investigating the incident, said a 9mm self-loading pistol has been recovered from the house.

The incident began on Monday evening when unarmed officers arrived to arrest divorcee Bell over allegations he had threatened a couple in the village.

Bell shot one 29-year-old officer who had come to detain him. The Pc was saved from serious injury by his body armour, it was confirmed today.

Today, the IPCC said in a statement: "IPCC investigators were unable to enter the house to begin their examination on Tuesday due to fears that it may contain an improvised explosive device.

"The property has been declared safe now following a search by specialist teams and a forensic examination is being undertaken."

The IPCC said Bell was a divorcee with one daughter and a step-son.

Neighbours said he lived alone with his pit-bull type dog at the end-terrace house on Cockley Hill Lane, in Kirkheaton, which is a quiet village about three miles from the centre of Huddersfield.

The commission's statement said: "It has been established that West Yorkshire Police received a 999 call at approximately 6pm on Monday alleging that Mr Bell had made threats towards a woman and her husband.

"Police officers responded to this call and visited the woman before travelling to Mr Bell's home to arrest him at approximately 10pm.

"It is understood Mr Bell produced a weapon and fired at the unarmed officers.

"One bullet struck the body armour of one of the officers and he sustained bruising to his lower back.

"Firearms officers were deployed and the scene was contained. Negotiations then began with Mr Bell.

"However at 5.30am on Tuesday one firearms officer discharged his Heckler and Koch G36 carbine and Mr Bell sustained fatal injuries."

People living nearby recalled hearing about four shots at the climax of the siege.

They said there were numerous shots throughout the night, although some residents thought the noise was just fireworks.

Earlier today the Chief Constable of West Yorkshire, Sir Norman Bettison, confirmed the officer who was shot by Bell was spared serious injuries due to his body armour.

In an interview with the Yorkshire Post, Sir Norman said Bell had a "history of violence".

He said: "Immediately on answering the door and discovering officers wanted to carry the investigation of the threats further, this man produced a handgun, threatened the officers with it and told them to leave his premises, which they sensibly did.

"As they were retreating from the property, he opened fire."

He went on: "The round lodged in the body armour and did not penetrate the final layer, so the officer has severe bruising to the kidney area of his torso and abrasions which were caused by the ricochet of the armour.

"If he hadn't been wearing body armour, it would have undoubtedly caused serious injury in an area where there are a great number of vital organs."

The paper said Sir Norman made the comments during a pre-arranged interview yesterday on another matter.

Yesterday, people living in Kirkheaton said Bell was a loner who was "well-known to the police". They said he was a drug user with a lengthy prison record.