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

The Evening Standard (London, England), May 19, 2008 | Go to article overview

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

SPECIAL REPORT

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. …

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