Police marksman in inquest 'song titles' probe

Tuesday 02 November 2010 13:45

A police marksman responsible for shooting a lawyer dead during an armed siege faced punishment today after it emerged that he peppered evidence about his actions with song titles.

The Scotland Yard marksman, known only as Alpha Zulu 8 (AZ8), was disciplined over his verbal testimony during the inquest into the death of barrister Mark Saunders during a stand-off in Markham Square, Chelsea, west London.

But a fresh inquiry was launched after the force's top officers learned of his actions and brought in officials from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC).

Sources close to Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said he was "furious" that anyone could show such "insensitivity and lack of judgment" during the high-profile hearing.

It is understood that officials are now examining the testimony of other police officers who appeared at the two-and-a-half-week hearing, although there is no evidence that others acted improperly.

The inquest heard that AZ8 was one of four officers who may have fired the shots which fatally wounded Mr Saunders as he drunkenly levelled a shotgun at them from the kitchen window of his home.

The alarm was raised when officials examining transcripts of his verbal evidence at Westminster Coroner's Court discovered the names of several song titles during his hour-long testimony.

It was not clear what the songs are, but he used the phrases "first time", a hit by Robin Beck, "enough is enough", the subtitle of hit single No More Tears by Barbra Streisand, "point of no return", a Duran Duran hit, and "line of fire", recorded by rock band Journey.

AZ8, who fired at Mr Saunders while placing a battery-powered spotlight in a conservatory of a neighbouring property, told the inquest he regretted not shooting the barrister earlier.

He swore heavily during his evidence, remarking that a colleague said "F*** me, this is really going to happen" and adding that he was "buggered" if he was going to turn his back on a gunman.

An IPCC spokeswoman said the watchdog would now manage a further police inquiry into what effect this had on the officer's testimony and on proceedings overall after it was referred to it last week.

She said: "It is alleged that, while giving evidence under oath to the inquest on September 27, officer AZ8 deliberately inserted song titles into his verbal testimony.

"The investigation will examine the officer's testimony, any impact that testimony may have had on the proceedings, the way in which the allegation was initially dealt with by one of his supervisors, and whether or not any other police officers were involved."

The Met said the officer was reprimanded by a senior officer in his firearms unit but IPCC officials were alerted when the matter came to the attention of more senior staff.

A spokesman said: "A matter was brought to Met attention during the Mark Saunders inquest in relation to evidence given by a firearms officer to the inquest.

"The issue was dealt with at the time by the officer's management, who reprimanded him.

"On October 28 the matter came to the attention of senior officers who felt this was insufficient.

"As a result the matter was referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission on October 29.

"We have now been informed by the IPCC that they will manage an investigation by the Metropolitan Police Directorate of Professional Standards.

"The Met takes this matter extremely seriously as we expect the highest standards of all of our staff. The officer has been removed from operational firearms duty."