'Unlawful killing' ruled out in Romford police shooting inquest

Richard Cottier who was shot dead by police in Collier Row. Photo: Ellie Hoskins

Richard Cottier was shot dead by police in Collier Row in April 2018. - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Jurors in the inquest of a Romford father shot dead by police have been banned from reaching a conclusion of unlawful killing. 

The jury in the case of 41-year-old Richard Cottier was sent out on Tuesday, June 8, to consider its verdict. 

Mr Cottier was killed by two gunshot wounds, each inflicted by a different officer, on April 9, 2018. 

He dialled 999 in the early hours and died around an hour later at an Esso petrol station on Collier Row Road. 

The inquest began last month at Barking Town Hall. 

Coroner Nadia Persaud told jurors on Tuesday that she had removed the option of an unlawful killing verdict. 

She explained: “The only short-form conclusion that I consider that you could safely return on the evidence is the conclusion of lawful killing. 

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“The evidence that you have heard, and this is agreed by all, would not safely permit the finding of unlawful killing.” 

Ms Persaud said a lawful killing was “an act which would otherwise be a crime, such as manslaughter or murder, but which is legally justified under the criminal law.” 

She said that in order for the killing to be lawful, the police shooters would have to have “honestly believed” the shooting was necessary to protect themselves or others, and they would have to have used “no more force than was necessary”. 

“In this case, I as the coroner decided that the only conclusion which a jury could reach safely on the evidence is that both [officers] honestly believed that it was necessary to use force.” 

Melissa Cottier was woken by her partner Richard Cottier at 3.30am before he was shot dead by police

Melissa Cottier, Richard's partner of 23 years, told police repeatedly that she and her children were not in danger - but it was inaccurately transcribed onto the police computer system that she had said the opposite. - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Ms Persaud said the jury had the alternative of returning a “narrative conclusion”. 

She said they could do so if the short-form of lawful killing “does not reflect adequately the evidence that you have heard, ie, it does not tell the full story.” 

Jurors were told their narrative, should they return one, could not contain words like “negligent” or “illegal”, which appeared to ascribe criminal or civil liability. 

However, she said, it could contain “ordinary and non-technical” words, such as “inappropriate”, “insufficient” and “unsuitable”. 

Ms Persaud added that the narrative could only make reference to matters which “probably” contributed to Mr Cottier’s death. 

“If you consider that there are some issues which merely possibly could have altered the outcome, they should not be included in the narrative,” she said. 

“This is not a trial,” she told jurors. “It’s an inquest into the death of Mr Cottier. It is a fact-finding inquiry to determine how he died. 

“It is not concerned with attributing blame. It is simply a way to establish facts. In order for you to decide those facts, you must make an assessment of the facts that you have heard. 

“What evidence do you accept and what evidence do you reject? These are matters for you.”

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