It took just four seconds for an armed police officer to fatally shoot Mark Duggan. But the whitewash has taken nearly four years.
On 4 August 2011 at 6.12pm, unmarked police cars forced a silver Toyota Lucida minicab to a stop on Ferry Lane in Tottenham, north London. Mark was the back seat passenger. Moments later he lay dying on the pavement, shot in the arm and chest by a police firearms officer. A handgun partially wrapped in a black sock was found just over four metres away.
Last week the police’s pet watchdog the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) published its report into the shooting. It cleared the firearms officer, known as V53, of any wrongdoing. It upheld his “honest held belief” that Mark was armed and beginning to aim a gun when he shot him.
It also concluded that Mark was “in the process of throwing the firearm as he was shot”—and the gun was on the grass because he threw it there.
Right wing newspapers were crowing. The Daily Mail called Mark a “violent gangster”. In the Evening Standard he was an “armed criminal”. But the IPCC’s conclusions don’t add up.
The jury at the 2013 inquest into Mark’s death concluded that he was not armed when police shot him. And the version of events described by V53, and the IPCC’s conclusions, raise more questions.
V53 joined the police in 1997. In 2001 he joined the Territorial Support Group (TSG). The TSG is a public order unit based in London and the Home Counties. It replaced the Special Patrol Group in 1987. During V53’s time in the TSG he trained to become a firearms officer. He declined to be questioned for the IPCC’s investigation.
But at the inquest into Mark’s death he gave a detailed picture of seeing him holding a gun. V53 said, “The only way I can describe it is like a freeze frame moment.
“I had lovely peripheral vision, my focus turned immediately to what was in his hand.
“Mark Duggan is carrying a handgun in his right hand. I can see the handle of the weapon, I can make out the trigger guard, I can make out the barrel and it’s side-on to his body and there’s a black sock covering that weapon.”
V53 claimed he perceived a threat and so fired his gun. He said he shot Mark on his chest to the right, which “caused like a flinching movement, and then the gun has now moved and is now pointing towards my direction.
“So the round has impacted on his chest, the gun is now pointing towards me, so again I’m thinking he’s going to shoot me.
“So, again, because I’ve got an honest held belief he’s going to shoot me or one of my colleagues and I have reassessed the threat and I’ve discharged a second round from my MP5, which appeared to impact on his right arm—or right bicep”
Forensic evidence casts serious doubt on this version of events. Pathologist Derrick Pounder has reasoned that Mark first sustained a non-fatal wound to his right arm. He argued he was then was shot through his chest, causing the wound that killed him. This would explain why the trajectory of the bullet that hit Mark’s chest was at a considerable downward angle.
It suggests he was falling forwards after being wounded in his arm. The IPCC report conceded that Mark “was more likely than not to have been stooped”.
Military surgeon Jonathan Clasper also reasoned that Mark was not directly facing the person who shot him when he was shot in the chest. If this is the case, how could Mark have been “flinching” and aiming a weapon at V53?
The IPCC report argued, “The sequence in which the two shots impacted upon Mr Duggan does not affect the question of whether he had an honestly held belief at the time that his life or that of his colleagues was in imminent danger.”
But V53 claims to have “reassessed” after firing the first, non-fatal shot. Under questioning at the inquest he said he couldn’t be “100 percent sure” about the order of the shots.
How V53 could give such a clear description of seeing Mark with the weapon, but not be clear about the sequence of shots, is not explained. Out of 11 officers at the scene only V53 and another codenamed W70 said they saw a gun.
No independent witnesses reported seeing a gun. The jury at the inquest concluded that Mark was not holding a gun when he was shot. Witness B saw the shooting and began filming the scene 35 seconds afterwards. He told the inquest that he was convinced that Mark was holding a Blackberry mobile phone. Records show Mark had been using a Blackberry moments before police stopped the minicab.
V53 supposedly had his sights fixed upon Mark holding a gun. Yet he can offer no explanation of how it ended up on the grassed area.
During the inquest assistant coroner Judge Keith Cutler put to V53, “You’re focusing on him, you are looking at him all the time you are not looking away or blinking.”
V53 replied, “No.” Cutler said, “Suddenly the gun disappears.” V53 responded, “It did, sir, yes.”
The police said the Trident gun crime operation that led to the shooting was based on intelligence that Mark was looking to collect a handgun.
They trailed him in the days before the shooting. On 4 August they followed him as he took the cab to Burchell Road in Leyton, east London.
The cab driver said a man came to the door and handed Mark a shoebox. Police evidence centres on the claim that the shoebox contained the gun found on the grass and that Kevin Hutchinson-Foster handed Mark the shoebox.
Police knew that Hutchinson-Foster had access to a gun. But they did not make him the focus of their intelligence operation. The IPCC report said it was “reasonable” for the police to focus on Mark. Yet even the senior investigating officer was forced to concede that Mark had a “very, very light criminal record”.
The gun on the grass was tested for DNA. It matched DNA from Hutchinson-Foster and another man, Peter Osadbey. Hutchinson-Foster said he borrowed the gun to pistol whip Osadbey in Dalston, east London, on 29 July 2011. Police did not properly investigate CCTV footage of the attack.
The gun did not contain any trace of Mark. The IPCC report admitted that no DNA, fibres or fingerprints belonging to Mark were traced on the gun.
Yet it concluded, “the most plausible explanation” for its location is that Mark threw it there. This is despite the fact that V53, who had “lovely peripheral vision”, said the gun just “disappeared”. And no other officer reported seeing it travel through the air.
Mark was right handed, and had sustained a painful wound to his right biceps.
As pathologist Pounder argued, “I cannot conceive of how Duggan might have thrown the gun to the place it was found, unobserved by police, given his body position as reconstructed, his injuries and the evidence suggesting that he was collapsing to the ground.”
There is another explanation.
In the hours after the shooting explanations were circulating about how the gun got to the grass.
IPCC investigator Richard Omotosho wrote a report that recorded a conversation he had with a police officer at the scene named DI Suggett.
When Omotosho asked Suggett how the gun got there he replied, “The police threw it.” The IPCC put this down to confusion in the aftermath of the shooting.
But the footage captured by Witness B in the seconds after the shooting shows a sequence of events the police have difficulty explaining.
Officers had the scene to themselves for some 20 minutes before paramedics arrived.
One officer, known as V59, wrote a statement days after the shooting. He wrote that another officer, R31, had informed him that a gun had been found near to the scene. When armed response officers arrived, V59 said he directed them to secure a firearm on the grassed area.
Yet Witness B’s footage shows that when V59 approached the armed response officers, the gun hadn’t yet been found.
The video shows officer Z51 walking to the area where the gun was allegedly found 34 seconds after V59 said he told armed response officers to secure it.
Z51 was on the phone at the time he said he found the gun. He told the officer he was speaking to that he had found it. How could V59 have known about the gun before Z51 found it?
Earlier footage shows a white shirted officer known as Q63 ducking down by the door of the cab, close to where police said the shoebox was. He is out of view for 12 seconds. When he emerges, he goes and talks to officer R31. V59 joins them.
R31 then goes to the grassed area. He disappears from view. Shortly afterwards the footage shows armed response officers arriving and V59 giving them instructions. They drive to the grass and stand where the gun was marked to have been found.
The IPCC found “nothing suspicious” in the fact that both R31 and Z51 claim to have found the gun. It said V59 was “confused” when he gave evidence suggesting he had prior knowledge about the gun’s location before Z51 “found” it.
But if no one saw Mark throw a gun, his injuries ruled out such an act and no physical evidence ties him to the weapon—how did it get there?
Put down the tame watchdog
The IPCC report is just the latest example of the watchdog’s rottenness. In the hours after the shooting of Mark Duggan, it put out a statement claiming he had shot at police first.
Even officer V53 had admitted, “I knew Mark Duggan never fired at us, we knew that straight away.”
It played an equally foul role after the 2005 shooting of Jean-Charles de Menezes. The IPCC is run by cops, for cops.
It is not in the interest of the state to hold the police to account. That’s why since 1990 no one has been convicted of murder for the 1,484 people who have died after coming into contact with police.
The IPCC shouldn’t be reformed—it should be finished off for good.