Azelle Rodney death: Police 'shot suspect six times'

Azelle Rodney The inquiry into Mr Rodney's death was adjourned in 2010

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A suspect was shot six times by an armed officer within seconds of a police car pulling up beside a vehicle he was in, a public inquiry has heard.

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

The Met police officers thought he and two others were on their way to commit an armed raid, the inquiry heard.

The inquiry is being held because an inquest could not see all the evidence.

This is because the inquest coroner could not see the intelligence information which led police to believe Mr Rodney was armed.

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

Oral hearings are taking place at a court in the Principal Registry of the Family Division in central London. The inquiry was adjourned in 2010.

Chairman Sir Christopher Holland, a retired High Court judge, will determine how, when, where and in what circumstances Mr Rodney died and is expected to make recommendations.

Thuds of bullets

The inquiry has seen police footage of the moment armed Metropolitan Police officers surrounded the car.

This inquiry has one purpose: to establish how, where and in what circumstances Azelle Rodney met his death - and if necessary to make recommendations to the authorities.

That's very similar to the purpose of an inquest - but there are some significant differences.

Important information relating to the intelligence picture will never be divulged because that would compromise how the information was gathered.

Police and intelligence witnesses, including the officer who shot Mr Rodney, have anonymity. That's unusual but not unheard of.

The government has a legal obligation to get to the bottom of why Mr Rodney died because any death involving the police is of public concern. The question is whether his family will ultimately conclude their questions have been answered.

In the video, three unmarked police cars are seen moving through Mill Hill in north London on 30 April, as they follow the car containing Mr Rodney.

Officers had thought Mr Rodney, Wesley Lovell and Frank Graham had machine guns and were on their way to commit a drugs-related armed robbery.

The footage then shows the car being brought to a halt by the officers who then get out of the car to apprehend the suspects. The recording then picks up the dull thuds of the bullets being fired by one of the officers.

The shooting itself is not on the recording.

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

"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."

The inquiry saw a video reconstruction of what E7 would have seen during the hard stop and shooting. This featured an actor who was used to simulate Mr Rodney's movements.

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

Colombian drug dealers

Mr Underwood told the inquiry that in early 2005, Her Majesty's Customs and Excise (HMCE) received intelligence about an armed gang that robbed drug dealers.

Azelle Rodney Two men who were in the car with Mr Rodney have since been jailed for drugs and firearm offences

He said the gang would set up a meeting to view Class A drugs and then steal them at gunpoint.

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

The inquiry heard HMCE told the police it had learned the gang had a plan to rob some Colombian drug dealers in Edgware on 5 April but the heist did not go ahead.

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

The inquiry also heard that Mr Rodney was wanted over an allegation of grievous bodily harm however the officers involved in the stop did not know this.

On the day of the shooting, it was decided that three unmarked police cars would form a box for the hard stop.

Mr Underwood said: "The surveillance teams did lock on to Mr Lovell, they locked on to men at a cafe.

"It became clear that the suspects were arming themselves, and the intelligence indicated that the men who had been picked up by the surveillance officers were on their way to carry out the offence."

The two men who were in the same car as Mr Rodney were arrested at the scene and jailed for drugs and firearms offences in 2006.

At their trial the court heard three guns were found in the car.

A report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission said there was insufficient evidence to prosecute the firearms officers involved in Mr Rodney's shooting.

In 2007, a coroner ruled that as a matter of law neither he nor the jury could see relevant intelligence material, making an inquest impossible.

In 2010, then Justice Secretary Jack Straw announced an inquiry would be established.

Earlier this year, the government apologised to the European Court of Human Rights for the delays in the case.

The hearing has been adjourned until Tuesday. It is expected to last up to 10 weeks.

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