1. ITV Report

Armed raid suspect 'shot six times'

Police thought the group in the car were on their way to commit an armed robbery linked to drugs. Photo:

An armed police officer shot a suspect six times within a second of pulling up beside the car he was in, an inquiry heard today.

Azelle Rodney, 24, was killed "instantly" when Met officers carried out a "hard stop" on a VW Golf in Edgware, north London, on April 30 2005.

Police thought the group in the car - Mr Rodney and two other men, Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham - were on their way to commit an armed robbery linked to drugs.

Ashley Underwood QC told the inquiry into Mr Rodney's death that the officer who shot him, known only as E7, was in the front passenger seat of an unmarked police car that stopped level with the driver's side back window on the Golf.

He said: "Within less than a second of the car containing the officer coming to a halt, he opened fire with a carbine.

"He fired eight shots rapidly. Of these, six shots hit Mr Rodney. He was killed more or less instantly."

An inquiry is being held into Mr Rodney's death instead of an inquest because of sensitive areas of evidence that would have to remain secret from a coroner.

It is the first time that this kind of inquiry has been held to look into a police shooting.

Mr Underwood played a video recording of the hard stop captured by another officer, named as E12, which showed a convoy of unmarked police cars driving through residential streets.

As the Golf was brought to a halt, shots could be heard but the shooting itself could not be seen.

Three guns were found in the car, but there are questions over exactly where they were at the time of the shooting, Mr Underwood said.

When a ballistics expert came to the scene they found a Colt .45 calibre pistol on the driver's side of the back seat, partly covered by plastic.

It was incapable of firing - work to get it functioning again after being deactivated had failed - and was not loaded, although three rounds of suitable ammunition were found in a plastic bag in the footwell.

There were two other guns in a rucksack in the back footwell - a Baikal pistol wrapped in a scarf that was loaded but its safety catch was on, and another that looked like a car key fob that was wrapped in a glove. It was loaded and the safety was off.

Lovell and Graham were arrested and later admitted possession of firearms.

Mr Rodney's family left the courtroom, in the High Court Principal Registry of the Family Division, as distressing photographs were shown of the car after the shooting.

Mr Underwood, lead counsel for the inquiry, paid tribute to the 24-year-old's mother Susan Alexander for her "reasonable and positive approach" to the arrangements put in place for the inquiry.

"If I may say so, she has behaved in the long period since her son's death with dignity and restraint," he said.

Parts of documents that reveal how intelligence was obtained will be blacked out and witnesses including the officer who fired the fatal shots and a number of intelligence officers will be given anonymity.

A video reconstruction of what E7 would have seen during the hard stop and shooting was shown, including an actor who was used to try to simulate Mr Rodney's movements.

Mr Underwood said that conflicting accounts of what happened will be given to the hearing, and Sir Christopher Holland, who is overseeing the inquiry, will have to decide "whether the contradictions are innocent or otherwise".

Explaining the background of the case, he told the hearing that in early April 2005 the then Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (HMCE) got intelligence about an armed gang that robbed drug dealers.

They would set up a meeting to view Class A drugs and then steal them at gunpoint.

HMCE believed that one of the men in the gang was called "Azelle" and had the same day and month of birth as Mr Rodney.

They learned that the gang had a plan to rob some Colombian drug dealers in Edgware on April 5 and told the police, but the heist did not go ahead.

The investigators again thought it was imminent on April 28 and so told police.

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