Belfast Telegraph

Saturday 20 September 2014

Marksmen feared 'suicide by cop'

Police feared Mark Saunders may have intended to commit 'suicide by cop'

Police marksmen feared gunman barrister Mark Saunders may have been preparing to commit "suicide by cop", an inquest heard.

One officer said colleagues considered whether Mr Saunders, 32, wanted to be killed during the armed siege at his Chelsea home.

Mr Saunders, a family law specialist, died in a hail of police bullets when he levelled a shotgun at officers after a five-hour stand-off.

An alcoholic, he sparked the siege by firing his shotgun through a kitchen window after a solitary binge-drinking session.

Firearms officers monitored his movements and their response on police radio channel 75 before the fatal shots at 9.32pm.

Coroner Dr Paul Knapman questioned Inspector Nicholas Bennett, who was in charge of the firearms teams, at Westminster Coroner's Court.

He said: "There is a rather inelegant expression from America known as 'suicide by cop'. Is it right to say that in the minutes before 9.32pm, you were listening on channel 75, did any person on channel 75 say, any of those firearms officers: 'Hang on, is he asking to be shot?' Or: 'Watch it, he might just be enticing us'. Did that come over from any of the officers who were watching?"

Mr Bennett replied: "No sir, not specifically. But it was a constant theme throughout the evening which was apparent."

Mr Saunders suffered fatal injuries when he was hit in the head and chest by five bullets at his £2.2 million Markham Square home on May 6 2008. He told police negotiators it would be "painless" to die and was seen putting the barrel of his 12-bore Beretta weapon in his mouth as he staggered around with a glass of wine.

The inquest has heard Mr Saunders repeatedly begged police to let him speak to his wife Elizabeth and a close friend as he wanted to say goodbye.

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