I'm Not a Bad Lad. I Want to Say Goodbye; Last Desperate Notes Gun Siege Barrister Held Up for Police to See

Daily Mail (London), September 22, 2010 | Go to article overview

I'm Not a Bad Lad. I Want to Say Goodbye; Last Desperate Notes Gun Siege Barrister Held Up for Police to See


Byline: Rebecca Camber

A SERIES of bizarre notes waved at police chart the spiralling despair of the barrister shot dead in a siege at his home.

Mark Saunders scrawled the single words 'wife' and then 'mum' during the stand-off before a final note said simply: 'I want to say goodbye. Kill myself.' An hour later the 32-year-old divorce barrister, who had been shooting from a window of his [pounds sterling]2.2million Chelsea home, was gunned him down by police after he levelled his shotgun at them.

Mr Saunders made a series of attempts to communicate with increasingly desperate notes, some of which he flourished at police, an inquest heard yesterday. The first note he showed police simply said 'wife', followed by the more urgent plea, 'to my wife - info to my wife'.

He wrote: 'I love my wife to bits, I think I really do.' In the chaos of the gunfight, he later wrote: 'I can't hear' and another note simply said 'mum' as his thoughts turned to his family.

A final note shown to police at 8.19pm read: 'I want to say goodbye. Kill myself.' In another lengthier note he begged: 'Please let me talk to my wife. I don't know how this happened. I am not a bad lad. I want to say goodbye and kill myself.' The barrister held up the notes at the window for police to see as he staggered around swigging from a wine bottle in one hand, and swinging the shotgun in the other. In the course of the five-hour standoff at his home in Markham Square he shot at a neighbour's child's bedroom and ten minutes before his death was involved in a second exchange of fire.

Westminster Coroner's Court heard yesterday how the Oxford-educated former Territorial Army soldier was three times over the drink drive limit when he died.

He had drunk the equivalent of two bottles of wine and in the days before his death, also taken cocaine.

Tests later showed he had taken cocaine repeatedly over the past six months.

The lawyer, an alcoholic, died after being hit in the head, heart and liver with a volley of bullets fired by police surrounding his home on May 6, 2008.

Earlier that afternoon he had been wandering the streets drinking and phoning escort agencies before he returned to his house by taxi at 4pm, telling the driver 'I'm going to die'.

On Monday, the court had heard that his wife Elizabeth, a barrister who worked with him at QEB Chambers in the Temple, had pleaded in vain with police to let her speak to him. She said she could have ended the stand-off by telling him: 'Darling, it's all right. I'm here.' Georgia Wilson, of the Independent Police Complaints Commission, said police negotiators recorded the contents of several hand-written notes from Mr Saunders.

The post-mortem examination revealed there was 0.02mg per litre of cocaine in his blood, the inquest heard. Dr Stephen Morley, who analysed the samples, said: 'It suggests there has been previous use of cocaine, but it's unlikely cocaine has been used within the 12 hours prior to death.' Toxicology tests showed Mr Saunders had been drinking at least 30 minutes before he was shot.

There was 255mg of alcohol in 100 millilitres of his blood. The legal limit for driving is 80mg.

Asked to describe the amount of alcohol found in Mr Saunders' system, Dr Morley said: 'It would be like in a single sitting having one or two bottles of wine.

'But that would be in a single sitting in one period. There's good evidence that Mr Saunders was drinking at various times that evening.

'There is high variation [in how alcohol affects people] but I think of significance is the history given by other witnesses. Mr Saunders had been known to have significant effects from alcohol.

'But at this level a person is likely to have appeared very drunk, and may not have had complete control of all their faculties.' The inquest heard that seven firearms officers stationed in and on three buildings in Bywater Street, which backs on to Markham Square, fired the fatal shots. …

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