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20 June 2002 Edition

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Shot for carrying a chair leg


The inquest into the shooting of Harry Stanley by the Metropolitan police on 22 September 1999 opened at St Pancras coroner's court, London, on Monday. The jury heard from Stanley's widow Irene how she heard the fatal shots as she cared for their grandchild in their home. He had been walking along Holloway Road in north London, carrying a chair leg in a plastic bag, when he was shot twice by armed officers from the SO19 unit.

Irene Stanley told the court that her husband was recovering from an operation for colon cancer and had great difficulty in walking, raising his hands or bending down because of the pain he was in. He had been told that he had an 85% chance of a full recovery and so "every day was precious".

Also giving evidence on Monday was Clifford Willing, who had called the police from the pub where Stanley had called in for a drink of lemonade. Although Stanley spoke to no one during the 20 minutes he was in the pub, Willing told the police that the Scotsman was Irish and was carrying a gun. When asked what sort of gun it was he had replied "it actually looks like a sawn off shotgun in a blue carrier bag". Willing had also told the police that he had seen the barrel and trigger of the gun wrapped tightly in a plastic bag.

The two officers responsible for the shooting, Inspector Neil Sharman and PC Kevin Fagan, had applied for anonymity prior to giving their evidence to the inquest. Counsel for the men, Michael Egan, said that identifying them was not in the public interest and would endanger their safety. However, Dr Chan rejected the application, saying: "I understand the argument that there is real fear but I am not persuaded that their fear is wholly rational."

Giving evidence, Sergeant Michael Meaney, second-in-command of SO19 on the day, told the jury that he arrived on the scene shortly after the shooting and looked inside the blue carrier bag Harry Stanley had been carrying. "I had to stare at this piece of wood," he said. "I was expecting to see a shotgun. So I ran up the road and got Inspector Sharman and PC Fagan and told them what I'd seen. They both appeared to be stunned and in shock by that. They said they wouldn't have done anything differently in the circumstances."

Meaney went on to say that Inspector Sharman had told him: "We got information that he had a sawn-off shotgun in a blue plastic bag. He was challenged. He went right into that road. He turned and levelled the shotgun at Kev. We both fired at him. I think we both hit him."

Neither Sharman or Fagan will face criminal charges over the shooting. The inquest continues.

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