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I’ve been reading the Inquiry into the killing of Azelle Rodney.  (Executive Summary and Inquiry Report available here.)

Christ on a bike what a mess.   e.g.  the deceased’s body was left on the pavement for 16hrs !!  You couldn’t trust these people to run a paper round, leave alone a police service.  The judge, likewise, was unimpressed.


So, to begin at the beginning .........

Azelle Rodney was killed by an officer of the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS, aka the Met)  on the 30th April 2005. 


It is usual, in these circumstances, for a Coroner’s Inquest to be held. Due to the sensitivity of some of the intelligence material involved, the Coroner accepted that neither he nor a jury could be shown that material.  Attempts were made, through Parliament, to revise the law so that a reasonably open Inquest could be held but without success.

In the event, an Inquiry was held led by a judge, Sir Christopher Holland.  He was satisfied that summaries of material that would otherwise have been denied would suffice and that most evidence could be heard in open session and all could be be heard by the family of the deceased.
The Inquiry was set up in June 2010.

Yet the Inquiry could not start to examine the event as the officers in the kill team refused to give evidence unless granted immunity from prosecution.  You what ?? !!!

That’s when the cry of  “stinking fish” went up.  It is expected that those trusted with weapons for the protection of the public will give account of themselves when they have to use those weapons.  Not that they will adopt the mentality of some criminal supergrass.
  And it makes the Chief Commissioner of the MPS subsequent statement  “The personal accountability of firearms officers is unparalleled.”  ring hollow.

It was bad enough to learn, a year before, that one in three members of the MPS can’t be trusted with the tea kitty


Eventually, immunity was conceded on condition that no one perjured themselves.

The Inquiry began its hearing in September 2012.  Its findings were made public in July 2013.



A  brief summary of the event:

On 30 April 2005, just after 7pm, three gangsters set off by car from Harlesdon to effect an armed robbery on  another gang in Edgeware.  Police had intelligence of this intention and also that the gangsters possessed firearms including an automatic weapon, a “machine gun”.

The Met police intended to disrupt this by use of a “hard stop”,  a euphemism for “at gunpoint”.
The tactic employed was for three cars of armed, undercover officers to box in the gangsters’ car forcing it to stop and then, under threat of overwhelming force, secure their arrest.


After following the suspect car to the vicinity of Edgeware it became urgent to stop it before it reached the busy town centre. 
The boxing in manoeuvre was carried out at the approach to a roundabout and in front of a pub with people sitting out enjoying the weather from the pub to the pavement.
In the process of stopping the suspect car it was rammed twice by the car supposed to be parallel to it and once by the car pulling up behind it.  (procedure is that the boxed in car should not be rammed by any police vehicle.)

In the backseat of the “parallel” car was a cop  (known throughout the Inquiry by the cipher E7)  with a rifle, whose role was to cover the suspects while the others deployed around them to effect arrests at gunpoint. 
E7, fearing for his life and his colleagues, opened fire on the backseat passenger Azelle Rodney, killing him.  One stray bullet passed through the car, shattering the nearside window and passing between another gun cop and an aghast member of the public.

The other two occupants of the car were arrested and firearms were found in the vehicle, though not a “machine gun”.

Over the next few days the officers involved gave written accounts of what had happened and E7 made a statement under caution to the IPCC.

No debriefing of the arresting team was carried out until the Inquiry eight years later !!



The Inquiry:

Early in his report, the Inquiry Chairman, Sir Christopher Holland,  expresses thanks to Detective Superintendent Mark Welton for his assistance in providing background to the setup and functioning of the firearms squad. 
His confidence is misplaced.  D.Supt Welton provides him with a table of deployments of firearms teams and the consequences

Police statistics


The total number of shots fired in 2005 is patently false.  Eight shots were fired in the killing of Azelle Rodney and nine were fired in the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.  (Inquest into the death of JC de Menezes, Nov 4, page 107, evidence of Franco Tomei.)   Eight plus nine is seventeen.

I don’t know why D.Supt Welton should misrepresent like this.  It’s unlikely that he’s innumerate, it’s possible that he’s incompetent as a researcher, or he may have some opaque motive but it undermines the value of his assistance to the Inquiry.   What else was he wrong or misleading about ??
If this is clear to the man atop the Tubbytown omnibus it should be so to the MPS.



In the aftermath of the killing, expert examination of the gangsters’ car was undertaken to establish the trajectories of the bullets fired by E7 .
A video made through the windscreen of a fourth car following the “hard stop” team was taken as evidence.

For the Inquiry, reconstructions were made of the view E7 would have had of Azelle Rodney during the operation.
Audio from the video recording was analysed for the number and spacing of shots and the recording was correlated with telemetry in the cars to provide a time line. 
From this it was determined that E7 began firing 0.06 seconds after his car came to a stop.  That’s six hundredths of a second after stopping.  He fired six shots in 1.11 seconds, a pause of 0.72 seconds and then another two shots 0.21 seconds apart.

In the first burst of six he hit Azelle in the arm, the back and twice in the head.  The first two wounds would have been incapacitating.  Either of the next two would have been fatal.  Of the other two rounds, one lodged in the car door and one went through the car into the wide blue yonder.
The second burst of two was into the top of the head of the slumped body.



E7  originally gave written accounts of what happened.  At the Inquiry, shown the reconstruction and expert evidence he changed his account but not to the satisfaction of the chairman.  The accounts of eyewitness also contradicted his version of events. 
Sir Christopher Holland concludes  “ ... E7’s accounts of what he saw are not to be accepted.”


Of the shooting;  the ACPO guidelines are  “ .... the number and sequencing of rounds of fire will depend on the circumstances as they exist at the time.  Officers must constantly assess the threat posed by the subject and the continuance of that threat.” 

Sir Christopher observes that the time E7 had between his car stopping and him opening fire would have been insufficient to do anything but take aim.  The rapidity of his volley of shots indicated that he gave no consideration to their effect.  That, after the wounds to his arm and back Azelle Rodney was immobilised and any subsequent wounding would have been disproportionate.  The first two bullets in his head were unnecessary and the second two excessive.

His conclusion was that whether considered under UK Civil Law and the law applied by the ECHR, or under UK criminal law, even if E7 had a belief that Azelle Rodney presented a threat “... there would have been no basis for firing the fatal fifth to eighth shots.”


A reconstruction, for the Inquiry, of the view presented to Azelle Rodney when E7 was alongside is below.  ( I reproduce this without permission and claim Fair Use.)

Static Cover View


As the judge says in his report  “... self-evidently an armed response would have been suicidal”.


In the thoroughness of his Inquiry, he asked what could Azelle Rodney have done to prevent getting shot at this point ??   The answer is, nothing.



In his many comments on the MPS subsequent handling of the event, Sir Christopher remarks that the MPS  failed to distinguish between its responsibility as an employer and its responsibility for operations.  In its legal representation it regarded the interests of it officers as the same as its own interests.  



The consequences of the Inquiry:

E7, supported by the MPS, appealed for judicial review of the conclusions of the Inquiry.  The High Court turned down his application, saying the conclusions were “unarguable”.

E7 is now known to be Anthony Long and will go on trial, on 8 June 2015, for the murder of Azelle Rodney.




It has wider implications.  It bears on the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Station on 22 July 2005.  JC de Menezes was held down and shot up to four times in the head, then the guy holding him was pulled away and his body slumped across the seat where he was then shot in the back and another two bullets were fired which “creased” his skull and were found in the seat.  (Quite when each of the four bullets were shot into his head is not determined but the first was sufficient to kill him.)
The Inquest Jury, given the choice only of finding he was lawfully killed or returning an open verdict, chose an open verdict.

Probity demands that the decision not to prosecute the police officers who shot him should be revisited.  Experience leaves us sceptical.










The Stockwell Inquest transcripts, no longer easily findable online, are available for direct download here as a Winzip file.   http://tubbytowntales.co.uk/Stockwell Inquest.zip
 


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