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Firearms officers quizzed over fatal shooting at inquest

Published 20/09/2016

James Fox was killed by armed police officers last August
James Fox was killed by armed police officers last August

Officers involved in an armed swoop in which a man was shot dead when he opened the door to his home have been asked why they did not announce their presence sooner.

James Fox, who had a history of mental illness, was hit five times by armed officers who believed he was carrying a gun at his sixth-floor home on August 30 last year.

The armed response team attended the flat in Enfield, north London, after a report that the 43-year-old had earlier pointed a gun at a child's head.

When the flat was searched an air pistol was found.

Firearms officers were asked why, when the keys were heard rattling in the door and they expected it to be opened, they did not shout a warning, instead moving into a new position.

Speaking from behind a curtain, a Met Police officer who can only be referred to is D29, and who was at the front of the operation, described a fast-moving sequence of events as the door was unexpectedly "flung open".

The officer told North London Coroner's Court: "I think that it would be safe to say if there is movement of some sort then we need to be plugged in on the major point of the threat."

Coroner Andrew Walker then asked: "What about shouting a warning in these circumstances, when Mr Fox was known to be suffering from mental health issues?"

The officer replied: "I accept there was an opportunity. It wasn't taken because the situation developed so quickly and I was focused in on containing the threat, but I accept that it was a possibility."

Continuing, the officer said: "It was one fluid, active action. You could argue there was time, but the most pressing thing was to get into position, so that was my number one aim at that point - to protect the public and prevent any potential armed suspect getting out into the public area."

Video footage played in court showed officers around the door followed by the sound of gunfire and the words "shots fired, man down, head shot".

Operational firearms commander Pc Richard Prior said he did not explicitly raise contingency plans with his team once inside the building because it would have been "common sense" to an experienced officer, and an in-depth briefing had already taken place.

Owen Greenhall, representing the Fox family, suggested to him: "You did not formulate a plan, did you?"

He replied: "Yes: containment, phone call - they were all contingencies that we had in place."

Mr Greenhall continued: "Was there anything that dealt with a confrontation with Mr Fox?"

Pc Prior replied: "No, because that's just common sense.

"I wouldn't need to say to someone: 'If he comes to you, do this, do that.' It is ingrained into them.

"It is not for me to instruct the people at the front to give an individual warning," he added.

Andover-born Mr Fox died at the scene.

The inquest continues.

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From Belfast Telegraph