Nine Officers Fired at Lawyer in Chelsea Siege; 1.[pounds Sterling]2.2m Flat: The Front of Number 2.killed: Mark Saunders 3.devoted Wife: Liz Clarke Returned Home to Find the Square Cordoned Off
Byline: ROBERT MENDICK, JUSTIN DAVENPORT, KIRAN RANDHAWA
NINE police officers shot at gun siege barrister Mark Saunders in scenesdescribed today as "like the OK Corral".
Police face new questions about why so many opened fire during the five-hourMarkham Square stand-off in Chelsea on 6 May.
Mr Markham, 32, was killed after firing a shotgun at members of the public andofficers from the windows of his [pounds sterling]2.2 million flat. Mr Saunders, a formermember of the Territorial Army, was hit five times by the marksmen.
The Standard has established that the officers who fired shots are members ofthe Met's armed car crews, known as Armed Response Vehicles, who are on 24-hourpatrol in London. Eight of the officers were from the Met's specialist firearmsunit CO19 and the ninth from the diplomatic protection unit.
More CO19 officers trained in rapid entry and conducting sieges were involvedin storming the flat but did not fire.
Inquiries have also cast doubt on claims that Mr Saunders was an alcoholic anddepressive. One neighbour said he saw no evidence that the divorce barristerdrank heavily or rowed with his wife.
Mr Saunders was shot with rounds from two types of gun. Marksmen surrounded hisflat after he fired a shotgun wildly at neighbours, smashing windows in nearbyhouses.
Witnesses reported hearing three exchanges of fire between the barrister andpolice. An inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission will seek toestablish how many shots were fired and if officers were heavy-handed in theirresponse.
Police say they had no alternative but to open fire under guidelines whichdictate they must shoot if there is an immediate threat to life. Sources haverevealed the situation developed so quickly there was little time to putrehearsed plans into action.
One source said: "This was a highly unusual situation. It was a spontaneousevent that had a spontaneous response." Another insider said: "If you arefiring indiscriminately out of your window there is a very good chance that youare going to get shot. It is very sad that this should happen with someone whowas obviously mentally impaired but the armed officers did not have a lot ofchoice.
But the insider added: "There are questions over the number of shots fired andthe number of officers who fired shots. It was a bit like the OK Corral."Police are barred from making comment while the IPCC investigates but onesource said: "Saunders was firing directly at officers and members of thepublic. He was very clearly posing a threat to life." But a Standardinvestigation raises questions for the police over a "shootto-incapacitate"policy that one expert said left the barrister with little chance of surviving.
One firearms expert said it was time the Met explored a new policy in armedstandoffs that would allow trained snipers in certain situations to wound agunman before capturing him. He said the Chelsea siege could have been one ofthose occasions.
Mr Saunders's funeral was led by his widow Liz Clarke, 40, at Christ ChurchCathedral, Oxford, on Friday.
Some mourners and friends there were wondering why more attempts were not madeto capture him alive.
The Standard has reconstructed events on the day. We have also obtainedfloorplans of the couple's flat at 46 Markham Square, spread over three floors,all of which suggests he was killed at his kitchen window as he took pot-shotsat police marksmen positioned in houses 50 feet away.
We can reveal: Police were under orders to prevent Mr Saunders leaving the flatat all costs, fearing he would embark on a killing spree in the nearby King'sRoad.
He was almost certainly using standard "birdshot" shotgun pellets, whichreduced the threat he posed to the lives of police.
Officers, however, feared he might have possessed further weapons obtainedduring a stint in the Territorial Army.
Sources close to the family have been deeply upset by suggestions made abouthis drinking and the state of his marriage. Alastair Laidlaw, 54, who lives inthe flat below the couple, said: "They moved in last
September and I never heard a cross word spoken above me. I never heard araised voice. They were clearly devoted to each other. I would have known if hewas a drunk.
"They put their rubbish out and there was never any excessive amount of bottlesof alcohol. I never saw him drunk." Mr Laidlaw, a French teacher at City ofLondon school, said the couple would leave for work together every morning atabout 6.45 and return in the evening.
He believesbut is not certainthey followed the same morning routine on the day Mr Saunders died, driving totheir chambers at Queen Elizabeth Building in Temple where they were members.
A senior family lawyer stressed there was no evidence that Mr Saunders had adrink problem. The lawyer said: "Family law is a very small world and London'stop family lawyers all know who is going through a drinking problem. There werenone of these rumours with regards to Mark." Ms Clarke could be key inexplaining his transformation from serious barrister, with earnings hoveringaround the [pounds sterling]250,000 mark, to an apparently "crazed" gunman.
Police are trying to find out why Mr Saunders returned home early. One witnessto the siege said police told him that Mr Saunders had been drinking in anearby pub for at least part of the day.
At 3.45pm45 minutes before the shooting beganMr Saunders arrived at his flat, according to Jane Winkworth, who lived in thebasement flat below Mr Laidlaw's.
Ms Winkworth, a shoe designer, was in her garden and heard doors slamming. At4.30pm, she saw Mr Saunders shooting from his kitchen window into the courtyardgardens below.
Thinking he was firing at pigeons with an airgun, she asked him to stop. But MrSaunders continued and Ms Winkworth, by now fearful for her own safety, phonedthe police.
About 15 minutes later, the first armed officers arrived. They were DiplomaticProtection Group officers travelling in an armed response vehicle. The DPG hasarmed officers on permanent patrol in central London.
One of these officers returned fire when he was shot at by Mr Saunders,according to sources, shortly after 4.45pm. Police from Scotland Yard'sspecialist CO19 firearms unitequipped with Heckler & Koch MP5 semi-automatic carbineswere next on the scene, attempting to secure the area, positioning officers at4 Markham Square, opposite the front entrance to No 46 and at numbers 1 and 3Bywater Street, securing the rear.
They were also positioned on the roof of a shop in the King's Road. Eachofficer is trained to fire a single shot in response to a threat and then makea new assessment of the situation before firing again.
One source told the Standard there was huge concern Mr Saunders could "do aMichael Ryan"referring to the gunman who ran amok in Hungerford, Berkshire, in 1987,shooting dead 16 people and wounding 15.
For the next five hours police attempted to negotiate with Mr Saunders, as hepaced the three-bedroom flat, which the couple bought last September.
Plans show a main living area which stretched from the front of the house to a"through" kitchen at the back. Mr Saunders mainly shot through the narrower,rear kitchen windows. The Standard understands that a specialist negotiator wasbrought in to reason with Mr Saunders, contacting him by mobile phone, but thattalks broke down.
"Saunders was given every opportunity to surrender but continued shooting withalmost inevitable consequences," said one police source.
Ms Winkworth recalls the lawyer shouting, "I can't hear you", on a number ofoccasions, presumably as police tried to persuade him to give himself up.
Meanwhile, his wife, whose friends include Tory education spokesman MichaelGove, had been at work. She returned to the square in the late afternoon todiscover it cordoned off.
She was later seen in tears, walking away from Markham Square, promptingmistaken early reports that they had been in the flat together and she had fledafter a row.
During this time some residentsincluding those in the line of police firewere led to safety while others were told to remain indoors.
At 7pm, the barrister threw a box out of the rear window into the garden belowon which he had scrawled in black marker pen: "I love my wife dearly xxx." Justover two hours later he was dead, suffering the fatal wounds as he fired fromthe rear kitchen window during exchanges of fire that lasted from from 9pm to9.30pm. Police entered the building at 9.45pm, battering down the front doorand firing CS gas and stun grenades.
No further shots were fired, the Standard has established, scotchingsuggestions that Mr Saunders may have been killed at close-range.
The question is: was Saunders's death as inevitable as it seemed in the hoursand days that followed? Mike Yardley, a firearms expert who has advised thePolice Federation in the past, believes that the "shoot-to-incapacitate" policyis too inflexible, leading almost inevitably to loss of life in situationswhere negotiations between a gunman and police break down.
Currently, armed officers are authorised to open fire to stop any imminentthreat to lifebe it their own or that of a civilian's. They are trained in first instance toaim for the torso and if the body is not visible then the head.
The torso is the first choice because it is the easiest to hit. The problem isthere is no option to merely wound a gunman by deliberately aiming for the armor leg or hand.
Mr Yardley explained: "There ought to be a wounding option as part of thetraining process and protocols employed." He said that when officers open fire"they are not shooting to killthey are shooting to stopbut death in those circumstances is a high possibility." Was there a chance toshoot Mr Saunders in the shoulder or arm and then storm the flat? Family andfriends will wonder if a round of rubber bullets or even the use of a Tasergun, effective up to 15 feet, could have then been used to subdue the barristerand capture him alive.
The problem is the current guidelines do not actually include "shootto-wound"as an option.
A further question will be raised over the extent of the actual threat posed byMr Saunders. True, he had military traininghe had served in the Honourable Artillery Company for five to six years duringand after universitywhile he had also been drinking on the day he died, making him more difficultto deal with.
But his shotgun, if firing only birdshot, poses a real risk to life over adistance of about 30 to 40 yards, according to experts. Family and friends willwant to know exactly how much danger he posed to armed police positioned behindwalls and windows.
Of course, Mr Saunders may have had other weapons and certainly police fearedthat. Moreover, shotguns can also be fired using "rifled slugs", ammunitiondeadly over a range of 100 yards and used for such pursuits as hunting wildboar. Police will not have wanted to take any risks.
Paul Robinson, a former superintendent in charge of CO19, said: "He came to thewindow of the property and started to fire on the people who were trying tocontain him.
"You cannot withdraw these people because otherwise he would not be contained.
They have to be there. In fact these officers put their lives at risk in orderto prevent him from causing a risk to others."
EDITORIAL COMMENT: PAGE 1
HOW THE TRAGIC EVENTS UNFOLDED IN MARKHAM SQUARE
3.45 pm: Mark Saunders returns home, according to Jane Winkworth who lives inthe basement flat.
4.30 pm: Ms Winkworth sees her neighbour shooting from his kitchen window intothe back courtyard gardens and phones the police.
4.45 pm: First armed officers arrive, from the Diplomatic Protection Group. Oneof them opens fire when shot at. Police from the CO1 ? firearms unit arriveshortly afterwards and position themselves in homes opposite the front and backof Mr Saunders's flat and in the King's Road.
5pm: Police attempt to negotiate with Mr Saunders as he paces the three-bedroomflat. He mainly shoots through the rear kitchen windows.
7pm: The barrister throws a box into the back garden on which he has scrawled:" I love my wife dearly xxx." ? 9pm: Half-hour shootout begins, during which MrSaunders is fatally wounded as he fires from the back window.
9.45 pm: Certain Saunders has been hit, police storm the building, batteringdown the front door, firing CS gas grenades and shouting: "Get down." 6 MAY:FIVE-HOUR STAND-OFF
'He started to fire at the people trying to contain him. Those officers puttheir lives at risk to prevent him causing risk to others'…
Questia, a part of Gale, Cengage Learning. www.questia.com
Publication information: Article title: Nine Officers Fired at Lawyer in Chelsea Siege; 1.[pounds Sterling]2.2m Flat: The Front of Number 2.killed: Mark Saunders 3.devoted Wife: Liz Clarke Returned Home to Find the Square Cordoned Off. Contributors: Not available. Newspaper title: The Evening Standard (London, England). Publication date: May 19, 2008. Page number: 8. © Not available. COPYRIGHT 2008 Gale Group.
This material is protected by copyright and, with the exception of fair use, may not be further copied, distributed or transmitted in any form or by any means.