Senior officer not told gun might be fake, Romford shooting inquest hears

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

Richard Cottier was shot dead by police in Collier Row on April 9, 2018. Photo: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

The senior officer on a firearms operation which saw a Romford father shot by police has testified that he was not informed of intelligence that the man’s gun was a fake. 

The Operational Firearms Commander – granted anonymity and codenamed PW13 – testified on Wednesday in the inquest of Richard Cottier. 

Mr Cottier, 41, was shot twice by police at an Esso petrol station in Collier Row Road on April 9, 2018.  

The inquest, at Barking Town Hall, has heard Mr Cottier called police and reported he had a gun. 

PW13 told jurors he had been dispatched to a rendezvous point at the Bell and Gate pub, in Collier Row Lane, to await orders from a firearms team in an office. 

He was tasked with designating roles to four firearms units at the rendezvous point. 

PW13 was questioned about the availability of “less-lethal options” on the night – such as a Taser or baton gun, which shoots plastic bullets. 

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“I believe the officers in this case did have Taser available to them,” he said. 

But another officer had testified on Tuesday that a Taser may not have been appropriate for use at a petrol station, due to “potentially flammable substances”. 

Questioned about baton guns, PW13 said that in 2018 there had only been four baton guns for the whole of London, whereas now all firearms vehicles have them. 

On the night of Mr Cottier’s death, two of London’s baton guns were in PW13’s vehicle – but the team he dispatched to the petrol station did not take them. 

He told jurors: “If the information is that the subject is in possession of a conventional firearm, initially, conventional firearms will be deployed by ourselves until we have identified, located and contained that threat.” 

Barking Town Hall

Witnesses were testifying in an inquest at Barking Town Hall on Tuesday. - Credit: Archant

Coroner Nadia Persaud asked whether he had been informed of information – received from Mr Cottier’s partner – that Mr Cottier’s gun was fake. 

“No, I wasn’t,” he told jurors. “I was aware that enquiries were being carried out in the control room, as you would expect, to try to get as much information as possible.” 

But, he said he was "aware that the suspect in this matter was being classed as EMD (emotionally or mentally distressed) and therefore vulnerable”. 

Asked by a juror whether police would ever use a baton gun in a firearms incident, PW13 said he had encountered such scenarios in training. 

“An example might be if a person is outside a premises with a firearm, not posing a threat to anyone,” he said. 

The court heard that PW13’s body-worn camera footage was missing. 

He testified that he thought he had activated it upon his arrival at the Bell and Gate, but later discovered it had not recorded any of the events leading up to Mr Cottier’s shooting. 

He did not arrive at the petrol station until after the incident. 

“I could clearly see that Mr Cottier was on the ground and was being attended to by our medics,” he said.  

“Once I was happy that everything was being done, I then moved to almost like the post-investigation side of it. 

“It was at that point that I relocated my body-worn camera and switched it on.” 

When he saw Mr Cottier’s weapon on the floor, he said that although it had “an appearance very similar to a single-barrelled shotgun”, he thought it was an “air weapon”. 

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For more, read: 

Witness denies comments in police statement at Romford Shooting inquest 

Collier Row father shot by police had 'fake gun', inquest hears 

Records of calls in Romford police shooting were 'wrong', inquest hears