Chelsea gunman Mark Saunders lawfully killed by police

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Media caption,

Daniel Sandford explains what can be seen in the police video of the seige

A barrister who was shot by police marksmen following a five-hour armed stand-off in west London was lawfully killed, an inquest jury has found.

The siege began after Mark Saunders, 32, fired shots from his home in Markham Square, Chelsea, on 6 May 2008.

The Westminster Coroner's Court jury found the actions of the officers were lawful, proportionate and reasonable.

But the coroner said he would make recommendations as there were doubts as to who was in charge of the marksmen.

Following the verdict the barrister's widow, Elizabeth Saunders, said: "I respect the verdict of a jury who have carefully considered all the evidence."

Mr Saunders' home was surrounded by officers carrying more than 100 guns.

The court was told that Mr Saunders had asked to speak to his wife during the siege. But she told the jury that police told her to turn her phone off.

Jurors found that police should have given more thought to allowing Mrs Saunders, or the barrister's friend, to speak to him.

But the panel stressed that the decision to ask them to switch off their phones did not contribute to the fatal outcome.

The jury was not sure whether the barrister "deliberately and consciously took steps with a shotgun" to provoke officers to shoot him.

Officers acted lawfully and the fatal shots to the head, chest and liver were fired in "reasonable self-defence", the jury ruled.

But it said there was a "lack of clarity" over who was in control of the frontline officers, but clarified that this did not lead to the outcome.

Jurors also found that police, who knew about Mr Saunders' problem with alcohol, had given insufficient weight to the fact that he was a vulnerable alcoholic. But the panel said that this did not contribute to his death.

Following the verdict, coroner Dr Paul Knapman said: "I am satisfied there is insufficient evidence to justify leaving the jury with the option of finding that unlawful killing is made out to the criminal standard."

To the Saunders family he said: "These have not been an easy three weeks for Mrs Saunders and the Saunders family.

"In fact it must have been an extraordinarily difficult period. I would just like to say, on behalf of us all, I am sure that they have our sympathy in a desperately sad situation."

In a statement, Mrs Saunders said: "I did not approach the process with any pre-determined conclusions and I respect the verdict of a jury who have carefully considered all the evidence.

"I spoke at length about Mark when I gave my evidence. He was a loving and much-loved husband, son, brother and friend.

"He is very much missed by all who knew and cared about him.

"I would like to thank all those who have supported me since Mark died, my family, my friends and my colleagues, the residents of Markham Square who have been unfailingly generous to me and all those people whom I did not know before Mark died who have been so kind to me."

Media caption,

Commander Christine Jones: "We will now reflect on the findings"

In a statement on behalf of the firearms officers involved in the siege, the Metropolitan Police said: "They have awaited the inquest to give their account of what actions they took and why they took them.

"All involved only ever wanted a peaceful resolution to the incident.

"Nothing can adequately prepare a police officer for the actual taking of someone's life."

Following the verdict, Met Commander Christine Jones said: "The object of the police was to protect the public and bring Mark Saunders to safety.

"But we are prepared to take appropriate action to make difficult decisions to protect the public."

Highlighting the confusion among police ranks regarding who was in charge of the marksmen during the siege, Dr Knapman said he would make one recommendation to the police about the lessons that could be learnt.

He said: "The evidence at the inquest has shown that there was a confusion on this point.

"I now intend to announce that I shall be making at least one report under Rule 43 of the Coroners Rules."

It was also revealed the inquest jury passed a note to the coroner on Thursday, asking whether they could add further comments to the seven questions it had been tasked with answering.

The inquest heard the jury is not allowed to return verdicts or comments that could imply negligence or a failure of any duty of care.

A Crown Prosecution Service spokesman said the case would revisited to see if any "significant new evidence" had come out during the inquest.

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