Socialist Worker

Harry Stanley shot in back of the head, inquest told

Issue No. 1925

Vigil at the spot where Harry Stanley was shot dead

Vigil at the spot where Harry Stanley was shot dead

A MAN shot dead by police, who thought the table leg he was carrying was a gun, was facing away from them at the time, an inquest has heard.

The new inquest into the death of Harry Stanley, who was killed by police in 1999, last week heard ballistics experts say that the fatal bullet entered Harry’s head from the rear, not the front.

A Home Office pathologist who examined Harry’s bullet wounds also said the position of entry and exit holes to his head indicated he was “slightly facing away”.

This contradicts a claim central to the police officers’ defence—that Harry had turned round to face them, assuming a “classic firing position” when he was killed.

Harry, 46, was shot yards from his home in Hackney, east London. He had just left a local pub carrying a table leg, which had been repaired. Another customer in the pub called the police after mistaking the table leg for a gun and Harry’s Scottish accent for an Irish one.

The police claim they challenged Harry, who turned in a “smooth fluid motion”, pointing the table leg at them. But Harry could only walk painfully after an operation for colon cancer.

The initial inquest, which returned an open verdict, was carried out in front of Dr Stephen Chan.

Harry’s widow, Irene Stanley, fought a High Court battle to win a second inquest, claiming that the first was highly flawed.

The crucial ballistics evidence was not heard, and Dr Chan did not allow the jury to return a verdict of unlawful killing.

Last week the new inquest heard the Stanley family’s barrister, Tim Owen QC, accuse armed police officers Kevin Fagan and Neil Sharman of changing their account of the shooting.

Owen says Sharman’s version of events was “concocted”. He says the ballistics evidence showed the bullet entered Harry behind his ear, meaning he did not turn in the way Sharman had described.

Deborah Coles, co-director of Inquest which campaigns against miscarriages of justice, told Socialist Worker, “We hope this inquest will reveal the truth about how an unarmed man could be shot dead and hold those responsible to account.”

The inquest was continuing as Socialist Worker went to press.

lJanet Alder, the sister of Christopher Alder who was unlawfully killed while in police custody in 1998, spoke to Socialist Worker about fighting for justice:

“We’re making connections between different family campaigns—our own, the Harry Stanley campaign and the Roger Sylvester family campaign.

“We’re going down the same road and it has strengthened us. I spoke alongside Irene Stanley during the European Social Forum in London, at a fringe event on state killings.

“We are publicising a DVD of a documentary about Christopher’s last moments.

“I think that when ordinary men and women are able to make a decision on cases like these, justice is done. When it’s left to the powers that be, you don’t get justice.”

Join the United Families and Friends Campaign demonstration against deaths in police custody, 1pm, Saturday 30 October, Trafalgar Square, London.

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Sat 30 Oct 2004, 00:00 BST
Issue No. 1925
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