A pathologist’s account of the fatal injuries sustained by Mark Duggan do not match the story described by the police officers involved in his death, it emerged last week . This latest contradiction joins a list of other problems with the testimony of officers.
Dr Simon Poole said the post-mortem revealed Duggan was shot in the upper right arm and chest by police. He was testifying last Thursday at the retrial of Kevin Hutchinson-Foster, who the prosecution allege supplied Duggan with an illegal firearm, which is claimed to have been recovered near where he was killed.
Dr Poole explained to the Old Bailey that the fatal shot entered the front right hand side of Duggan’s chest and exited through the left hand side of his back.
This was compounded by another shot which entered his right upper arm and exited the other side to graze his chest, although the doctor could not determine in which order the bullets were fired.
However the defense pointed out that testimony by an officer who fired at Duggan, would have had the fatal shot coming from the left to the right.
Stuart Denney QC stated: “So the scenario can’t be right? The officer fires to his left and the bullet hits Mr Duggan in the chest and it should go from left to right – but it went right to left. Therefore the scenario can’t be right?”
“I agree,” Dr Poole replied.
Although the prosecution later suggested Duggan could have turned around, this was not mentioned in the police testimony. Other contradictions also shed doubt on the police account.
Originally officers from the Met’s Trident team said Duggan had fired the gun allegedly supplied by Mr. Hutchinson-Foster, giving them grounds to shoot back. However this scenario was proven impossible, because the bullet found lodged in the chest radio of one of the officers was actually from a Trident firearm. Ballistics determined the only weapons fired, indeed the only bullets recovered from the scene originated from police weapons .
In light of this the officers’ position will now be to demonstrate that they were in immediate danger and had reason to believe Duggan would fire upon them. A factor in doing this will be to determine whether he was actually armed at the time of his death.
Despite officer V53 claiming he was “100 percent certain” that Duggan was holding a firearm when he attempted to “neutralize” him , the gun in question was said to be found about “five metres away” (16 feet) from his body, on the other side of some railings, in a sock . It was not on his person, and it would be extremely unlikely that the gun would have ended up in such a bizarre location if he’d been holding it in his hand. Expert witness Professor Jonathan Clasper, a former army colonel from Imperial College, could find no explanation for the distance between Duggan and the gun .
Furthermore officer R31 who discovered the gun in foliage behind the railings does not recall seeing Duggan with the gun during the shooting. Rather than brandishing the weapon and threatening police, R31 described how Duggan was trying to run away .
Crucially there is no forensics evidence (fingerprints or DNA) that links Duggan to the gun or sock. He is only linked to a shoe-box found in the Taxi he exited before his death . While the suggestion is that Duggan was traveling with the gun in the box, is it possible that it was not on his person at all and he was going to collect it from the location Officer R31 discovered it? Is it also possible that in the time between R31 discovering the gun “some minutes” after the shooting, another officer carelessly moved or even deliberately planted it there?
An interesting aside is an early report from Sky News that cited eye witness accounts of strange police activity in the days before the shooting. Locals said they saw armed plain clothes officers “hiding in the bushes nearby” and that a surveillance team had been watching the road where the incident would take place . It was acknowledged by the police that Duggan had been under surveillance the day prior to his death, but that would not explain why that specific location was chosen, if in fact it was chosen. This could just be careless reporting of speculation in the immediate aftermath, or it could also be an entirely unrelated surveillance operation.
If the surveillance team monitoring Duggan were involved at the location prior to the incident, the obvious question is why? Did they already know where they were going to apprehend Duggan based on his previous movements?
Another interesting aside is that when officer R31 discovered the gun, he also found a potted marijuana plant, which he then used to weigh down the bag he placed the weapon in to . “I found something but whether it was sensible, I’m not sure. I found a cannabis plant that was in a plant pot in the bushes.”
What relevance (if any) does this marijuana plant have to the possible pre-survelliance of the area?
Stafford Scott, an independent advisor to Operation Trident who deals with race relations, resigned from the initial investigation because he felt that it was not being conducted fairly. Writing in The Guardian, he stated :
“The IPCC has broken its own guidelines by giving out erroneous information to journalists regarding the “shoot-out” involving Duggan and police that didn’t actually happen. And its investigation is flawed and in all probability tainted – so much so that we can never have faith in its final report.”
Scott later criticized authorities for treating the Hutchinson-Foster trial as a proxy for the Duggan investigation, while continuing to delay the official inquest on Duggan’s death .
The belated inquest that may get to the bottom of some of the crucial questions about the shooting is scheduled to start on January 28th, at North London Coroner’s Court.