Belfast Telegraph

Officer who shot Steven Colwell in Ballynahinch was accused of violence against partner: inquest

By Allan Preston

An inquest into the fatal shooting by police of a 23-year-old man in Co Down 11 years ago, has heard the officer responsible was previously accused of assaulting and threatening to kill his partner with a poker.

Steven Colwell died on April 16, 2006, at a police checkpoint in Ballynahinch. He was in a silver BMW and tried to drive off when an officer approached.

After getting stuck in traffic he was shot twice. The officer responsible, identified only as Officer O, said the car had been driving straight for him.

An investigation by the Police Ombudsman found his actions had been "critically flawed," but this was rejected by the Police Federation of Northern Ireland.

As part of evidence relating to the credibility of Officer O's character, the inquest yesterday heard statements about a 20-year-old domestic violence complaint against him from a former partner, named as Miss Z.

He denied the claims at the time, saying Miss Z had been "paralytically drunk" and hurt herself falling on furniture.

The complaint was withdrawn shortly afterwards, and Officer O was not disciplined.

Miss Z's 1997 statement was read out to court yesterday, detailing a brutal assault against her, which Officer O strenuously denied.

Having lived with Officer O for nine years at that point, Miss Z told police that after coming home from a night out on August 31, 1997, her former partner accused her of "sleeping around" and "forcibly" threw her out of the house, taking her purse to stop her getting a taxi to her mother's house.

After being let back inside, Miss Z claimed Officer O said: "I was always talking about domestic violence but he would show me what domestic violence really was."

She said he punched her repeatedly in the face and abdomen before banging a fire poker on a coffee table, threatening to break her knees and beat her to death.

"He then told me that after he'd killed me he was going to blow his brains out."

A medical report from the time confirmed Miss Z had complained of severe abdominal pain after being beaten by her boyfriend and had bruising on her left arm and shoulder. Officer O was charged with threats to kill and actual bodily harm, denying both, as well as claims he planned to commit suicide.

He said Miss Z was so drunk she fell into furniture but admitted pushing her on to a settee when she tried to kick and scratch him. During the police interview, he called Miss Z "malicious" and claimed she had told him she would "make problems for me with the police".

When shown a picture of Miss Z with two black eyes, he maintained: "I didn't do this."

Miss Z later withdrew her complaint in March 1998, saying she had come to the decision of her own free will. Officer O was not subject to any police disciplinary procedures.

When questioned again by police about the alleged assault in November 2006, months after the death of Steven Colwell, Miss Z added that Officer O had pointed his gun at her head and she was surprised this wasn't included in the original report.

She said that he had been "obsessed with his gun", and would point it at her pet dog and threaten to shoot it. Officer O again denied these claims.

Police were called to a separate incident in 2005, whereby Officer O allegedly threatened the son of a second partner.

This complaint was also withdrawn shortly afterwards.

Interviewed by the PSNI for misconduct purposes, Officer O did not face disciplinary procedures, but was told his conduct "was not that expected of a PSNI officer". The inquest continues.

Belfast Telegraph

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