A police officer known only as E1 gave evidence to the public inquiry into Azelle Rodney’s death this week.
E1 is a senior tactical advisor and was head of the armed response team that stopped the car Azelle was travelling in and shot him dead on 30 April 2005.
Ashley Underwood QC questioned E1 on Wednesday on behalf of the inquiry. “You regarded it as a successful stop, didn't you?” he asked. E1 replied, “I considered the interception of the vehicle as a successful stop. Yes, sir.”
The next day barrister Leslie Thomas, representing Azelle’s family, asked E1, “How was this a successful operation when Mr Rodney ended up being shot dead?”
E1 replied, “Well, that is a tragic outcome, it is a tragic outcome, but the interception was successful in my eyes, tactically.” Thomas suggested that the claim of tactical success was “absolutely nonsense”.
He added, “Here you have a man who is shot once in the arm, nonfatal. Shot once in the back, nonfatal. Shot four times in the head, fatal, and two bullets, one of whom your officers could never find. How was that successful?” E1 replied that “it was a rather leading question”.
Thomas went on to say, “I'm going to suggest to you, E1, that your operation went spectacularly wrong. Do you accept that?” “No, sir,” E1 replied.
The inquiry heard how E1 was part of a convoy of cars pursuing the silver VW Golf that Azelle and two others were travelling in.
Three unmarked cars, each with three armed police inside, were used to stop the Golf. E1 was examined over the choice of location for the stop and subsequent shooting.
The inquiry was again shown a video of the stop taken from a fourth car. It shows a near-collision between police and an oncoming vehicle and that the stop and shooting take place right next to people in the Railway Tavern pub garden.
Thomas suggested it was “hard to imagine a more unsuitable place to conduct a hard stop”. E1 made clear that he was not aware of the pub being there.
The public gallery was emptied at points on Thursday as E1 was shown and questioned about aerial footage taken from a police helicopter on the day.
E1 echoed the evidence of previous police witnesses saying he was not aware the footage had been taken. Representatives of Azelle’s family wanted to have the evidence fully disclosed to the public but were overruled.
Police say they had intelligence that Azelle and the men he was travelling with were carrying machine guns.
The inquiry was shown photographs of the blood-splattered back seat of the Golf, taken after Azelle was killed by E7. Photo p012 showed a gun on the back seat.
Thomas said, “We heard from a paramedic who saw Azelle, looked in, she didn't see that gun there. Do you follow? Which is why I’m making the assertion: was the gun planted there? Do you follow?” There was a rucksack behind the front passenger seat.
Thomas went on, Can we turn to [photo] P224. Now, the rucksack is in a completely different position. Do you see that?” E1 replied, “Yes, sir. I agree.”
“Who would have been fiddling with the rucksack?”, Thomas asked. He told E1 the pictures were taken, “Minutes after, minutes after each other.”
He went on, “Why would anybody need to be fiddling with evidence?”. E1 replied, “Well, they shouldn't, sir. And that, to my knowledge, didn't happen.”
The inquiry continues next week.
United Families and Friends protest against deaths in custody. Assemble 12.30pm, Trafalgar Square, London, Saturday 27 October. Go to uffc-campaigncentral.net for details