Gail Kinchin

no image available femalePregnant teen shot dead in West Midlands police operation

Compiled from various sources
published: 4WardEver UK – December 2011

Updates on this case are listed at the foot of this item

11th June 1980 witnessed a shocking police tragedy when West Midlands officers accidentally shot a pregnant young girl while she was being held hostage by her partner. Gail Kinchin had been taken hostage by David Keith Pagett, the abusive, violent and controlling father of her unborn child. Gail first met Pagett when she answered an advertisement for a baby-sitter for the two children he had with his wife. When the couple fell out, besotted Gail moved in.

The 16-year-old soon fell pregnant. Gail and Pagett also subsequently split up amid suggestions that Pagett was abusive, violent and controlling. What no one could have predicted though, was his explosive reaction.

Pagett took 16-year-old Gail to a flat in Deelands Road, Rubery. For two hours Pagett was holed up in the flat, ignoring appeals to give himself up.

The siege was every police officer’s worst nightmare. The gunman had spent two hours holed up in his flat with his pregnant teenage girlfriend hostage. Hours earlier he had shot and wounded her stepfather and kidnapped her mother. Pot-shots had been fired at police officers from his 12-bore shotgun, although none were hurt, and tensions were running high.

The young girl was terrified her captor would kill her. He was getting desperate and his nerves were fraying. In an attempt to escape his bolthole, he crept out of the flat holding the young hostage in front of him as a shield and waving his shotgun wildly at police.

The blast missed the officers, deflecting off the banister, but instinctively they fired back. Tragically, they hit the hostage three times. She died of her wounds four weeks later.

Initially it was claimed that Gail had been shot by Pagett, but tests later revealed that she had been hit three times by the two police officers as they instinctively fired nine shots at Pagett. One of the bullets had gone through the uterus and her unborn baby boy could not be saved. She lived for four weeks after the shooting.

Pagett was sentenced to 12 years after being convicted of manslaughter, attempted murder, two counts of kidnapping and possessing a firearm with intent to endanger life. He was freed from prison after eight years.

Five years later, five-year-old John Shorthouse died after being accidentally shot when armed officers stormed into his home looking for his father.

The only other recorded police shooting of a female was in 2007 when Ann Sanderson, 37, was killed by officers investigating reports of a woman with a gun in Sevenoaks.

Wikipedia Background summary:

In the United Kingdom, the majority of police officers do not carry firearms, except in special circumstances. This originates from the formation of the Metropolitan Police Service in the 19th century, when police were not armed, partly to counter public fears and objections concerning armed enforcers as this had been previously seen due to the British Army maintaining order when needed. The arming of police in the United Kingdom is a perennial topic of debate.

Most officers are instead issued with other items for personal defence, such as Speedcuffs, Extendable “ASP” Baton, and incapacitant sprays such as PAVA or CS spray. While not a firearm, CS spray is subject to some of the same rules and regulations as a projectile firing firearm under Section 5 (b) of the Firearms Act 1968.

The Ministry of Defence Police, Civil Nuclear Constabulary and Police Service of Northern Ireland (formerly the Royal Ulster Constabulary) are issued firearms as a matter of routine. Every force can also call upon the Force Firearms Units, Armed Response Vehicle, and certain specialist units of the Metropolitan Police are routinely armed.

In the year 2007-08, there were 6,780 Authorised Firearms Officers, 21,181 police operations in which firearms were authorised throughout England and Wales and 7 incidents where conventional firearms were used.

Since 2004, Police forces have increasingly been deploying Tasers, for use against armed assailants, by Authorised Firearms Officers. Tasers are considered by the authorities to be a less lethal alternative to firearms, although Amnesty International links their use to 70 deaths in the US and Canada.


Follow-up News:

The police: armed and dangerous?
29 December 1994
A violent Christmas punctuated by gunfire has once more raised question s about when and how the police should use arms. It is an issue that divides even the force itself. Heather Mills reports

Teen hostage was fatally wounded in armed siege
(date unknown)

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