Dean Joseph inquest: Police accused of ‘failure in command’ over shooting man without warning
- Credit: PA
A police marksman who shot dead a man holding a woman hostage at knifepoint has been quizzed about why he did warn the suspect a gun was pointed at him before firing the fatal shot.
Police firearms officer PC Stuart Brown fired two bullets at Dean Joseph following a 90 minute siege at a Georgian terrace in Islington in the early hours of September 5 last year.
Armed police were called to Shepperton Road after the 40-year-old broke into the basement flat of his ex-girlfriend Julie Moyses and took her hostage at knife-point.
PC Brown was questioned about why no warning was given during the 30 minutes the armed officer had his G36 rifle pointed “in aim” before shots were fired, at an inquest into the death at St Pancras Coroner’s Court on Wednesday.
The inquest also heard:
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- There was “confusion” over whether the firearms operation was “overt”, meaning a suspect would be warned of police presence, or “covert”, meaning it would be kept hidden.
- The family’s QC said this pointed to a “failure in command”.
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- The QC said police had conferred “in an attempt to get stories straight” as “there was no need to shoot Mr Joseph because he could have been warned much earlier on”.
The armed officer was sent to the front of the flat to provide firearms cover and discharged his G36 rifle when Mr Joseph suddenly thrust a seven-inch kitchen knife into his ex-girlfriend’s neck, PC Brown told the court.
The officer said he believed there was an imminent threat to life as “Mr Joseph was about to murder Miss Moyses” and he fired twice at about 12.55am. Mr Joseph died a short time later.
But Leslie Thomas QC, representing the maternal side of Mr Joseph’s family, said it was “fundamentally unfair” that Mr Joseph had not been warned of the grave situation he faced.
He asked the officer: “Would you agree there’s a fundamental unfairness in shooting somebody when there’s an opportunity to tell somebody and not to do so. Tell them to desist, surrender, I’ve got guns on you.”
PC Brown said: “Not in the circumstances I’ve described.”
Mr Thomas said there had been “ample time” to give an “armed challenge or reality check” during the 30 minutes PC Brown was perched on a window sill looking into the bedroom where Miss Moyses was being held hostage.
He asked PC Brown: “Was the first shot done by accident?” He replied: “No.”
The officer told the court he believed the firearms operation was “covert” as this was the initial tactical advice and Mr Joseph was “emotionally or mentally distressed”, so telling him armed police were on scene may have escalated the situation.
But Mr Thomas said the jury had heard differing accounts, with the gold, silver and bronze firearms commanders on the night telling the court “the plan was this was an overt operation”.
Saying there had been a “failure in command”, he asked PC Brown “Did nobody communicate that to you?”.
The firearms officer replied he thought the operation was covert.
Asked by the coroner Mary Hassell: “If there had been a change in the plan tactically, the officers in charge wanted you to indicate ‘Armed police’ or ‘Be aware I’ve got a gun on you’, if that’s what they wanted, if that was the plan, would you want to know that?”
He replied: “Yes if that had been part of the plan”.
The court heard there were no tasers left in the Metropolitan Police’s armoury when PC Brown went to collect one that night, as an elderly woman had been decapitated in Edmonton earlier in the day and they had all be issued to other officers.
Mr Thomas suggested to PC Brown “you never had a taser, so it was never an option for you to consider” using it instead of using lethal force.
PC Brown replied “I could always consider other options but my role at the time was to cover with the G36 (rifle).”
The QC suggested police had conferred on which officers had tasers and other points in an “attempt to get stories straight”.
PC Brown told the court he had conferred with other officers about whether the TV was on in the flat as they wrote up their statements, but said “it’s not of relevance”.
Mr Lewis responded: “You say it’s not relevant but you’re not the judge of that. That’s precisely why you aren’t conferring, because you’re the shooter.
“Whether the TV was on, the light, the sound, could have been very relevant, do you see officer?”
The coroner interjected: “The officers were allowed to confer. It may be the decision to allow that to happen wasn’t right. But the responsibility can’t lie with this officer.”
Leslie Thomas QC said police had conferred “in an attempt to get stories straight” as “there was no need to shoot Mr Joseph because he could have been warned much earlier on”.
PC Brown denied this.
London ambulance paramedic Michael Rose entered the flat a minute after shots were fired and told the court Mr Joseph had two gunshot wounds to in his right nipple and left armpit.
He was given CPR at the scene before being taken away by ambulance.
The jury heard an air ambulance met the paramedics treating him at Old Street fire station, on route to hospital, and his chest was cut open on the fire station forecourt to perform internal heart massage.
Mr Rose told the court it was at this point a doctor pronounced life extinct.
The inquest continues.