Barrister shot dead by police after stand-off
compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2010
News updates on this case will be listed at the foot of this item
Mark Saunders, a divorce specialist and well-known barrister, died after a standoff at his £2.2m home in Markham Square, London on 6th May 2008. The depressed alcoholic, who had been on a drinking binge, was killed as he aimed a 12-bore game shooting gun at police who had surrounded the property.
He had 203 live rounds of shotgun ammunition and discharged eight shots during the siege. Six used cartridges were found in the kitchen and two in the dining room passageway.
One of the seven marksmen who fired at Saunders said he did so because the barrister, who was hanging out the window, looked as if he was “ready to shoulder it [the gun] and take aim”. Another firearms officer did not shoot because he said he could not justify it. The shocking admission came as it emerged that Mr Saunders’ shotgun may have not been capable of firing when he was shot dead.
The officer, known only as AZ14, told how he heard one shot ring out ‘followed by several shots in unison’ as his colleagues, who thought the Oxford graduate was taking aim at some officers on a rooftop, killed him a hail of bullets.
He added: ‘”believed the gun was pointing diagonally up to a rooftop and I knew there was no officer present at that location so I couldn’t justify taking a shot.”
There was some confusion among officers over whether Mr Saunders had himself opened fire in the moments before he was shot but the inquest was told that he had not.
Officer AZ14 said he was ‘certain’ at the time that the 32-year-old had not discharged his gun. Asked why, he said: ‘I hadn’t seen the gun recoil which with a shotgun would be quite apparent and I hadn’t seen anything coming out of the weapon.’
The final 2010 inquest heard that the legally held shotgun found near Saunders’s body was in the “broken” or “open” position, suggesting it could not have been fired at the time he was shot.
Initially, the widow of barrister Mark Saunders, who was killed following a siege by police, has suggested she could have defused the situation had she been allowed. Elizabeth Saunders told an inquest she had been made to feel “surplus to requirements” when officers instructed her to switch off her phone to prevent her husband calling.
Mrs Saunders said: “That would have been the only time in our relationship that he sent me a text message and he did not get an immediate call from me saying ‘Darling, I am here’.”That is very difficult for me, but there it is. I did not know he had called.”
The inquest heard that Mr Saunders repeatedly asked police negotiators if he could speak to his wife as he roamed inside his property with a shotgun.
In the final October 2010 inquest a jury found that Mark was lawfully killed when armed police opened fire. They ruled the marksmen’s lethal actions were lawful, proportionate and reasonable. He was hit by five bullets after the five-hour standoff.
The panel found fatal shots to the head; heart and liver were “likely” to be caused by police shots that were lawfully fired in “reasonable self-defence” at 9.32pm.
The jury did however find that more detailed consideration should have been given by police commanders at an early stage in the siege to using Saunders’s wife, Elizabeth, or friend Michael Bradley to defuse the confrontation.
Both of them asked to speak to the 32-year-old gunman but they were told it was too dangerous and were asked to switch off their mobile phones.
Elizabeth Saunders sat with her head down as the nine-to-two majority narrative verdict was returned.
Addressing the Saunders family directly, the Westminster coroner, Dr Paul Knapman, said: “These have not been an easy three weeks for Mrs Saunders and the Saunders family.”In fact it must have been an extraordinarily difficult period. I would just like to say, on behalf of us all I am sure, that they have our sympathy in a desperately sad situation.”
Since Mark’s death two years previously, Elizabeth Saunders was determined that the killing should be fully investigated. She accepted the jury’s verdict after the 3-week hearing of which she attended every day.
Publication of IPCC report into fatal shooting of Mark Saunders
21 December 2010
Police shooting of Mark Saunders ‘not unlawful’
10 October 2010
Charging decision regarding shooting of Mark Saunders
18 September 2009
The killing of Mark Saunders
14 September 2008
What drove Mark Saunders to pick up a shotgun?
11 May 2008