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

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

An inquest has begun into the death of Richard Cottier, who was shot dead by police in Collier Row in 2018. - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Police shot a man dead in Romford after assuring his partner that they would not, an inquest has heard.

Jurors were sworn in on Monday, May 24, at Barking Town Hall, for a three-week inquest into the death of 41-year-old Richard Cottier from Collier Row.

Mr Cottier was shot on Monday, April 9, 2018, after allegedly pointing a gun at police.

Melissa Cottier, his partner of 23 years, has previously said she believed he had been suffering mental health issues.

A police officer told the inquest Mr Cottier had been classed as “emotionally or mentally distressed”.

Mrs Cottier, the first witness, testified that the gun Mr Cottier had been carrying was not real.

In her witness statement, she said it was an “air rifle” and he did not have any pellets for it - “so not only wasn’t it a real gun, it couldn’t do anything”.

Jurors were played a 35-minute telephone call between Mrs Cottier and PC Matthew Bishop, in which she repeatedly told him the firearm was "fake".

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"You're not going to kill my husband?" she asked.

"No, of course we're not," he replied.

“I was only hoping for the best possible outcome for all parties,” PC Bishop explained.

Mrs Cottier said in her statement: “They didn’t have to shoot him and they certainly didn’t have to shoot to kill.”

Mental State

Mr Cottier suffered "bouts of depression," Mrs Cottier told the court - but never sought medical help.

Aside from his depression, she said, he was "a big kid".

"He was happiest when he was at home with his kids and me," she said.

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

Richard Cottier was described by partner Melissa as 'a big kid'. Photo: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Mrs Cottier testified that Mr Cottier had been a miner for 20 years but had become unemployed 10 months before his death.

She thought his depression was “getting better”, as he was “in the process of opening a boxing gym with his brother”.

April 9, 2018

On April 8, 2018, the family had celebrated the birthday of Mr Cottier’s son.

But, Mrs Cottier said, he was "quite low that day... Richard didn’t feel up to coming downstairs to sit with family or anything”.

After relatives had left, Mr Cottier went out and bought a bottle of Southern Comfort, she added.

Coroner Nadia Persaud told the court that Mr Cottier had called the police in the early hours of April 9, 2018.

Mr Cottier's call to the police was played to the jurors.

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

Melissa Cottier was the first witness to testify at her partner Richard's inquest. Photo: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Mrs Cottier repeatedly told police Mr Cottier’s gun was “fake” and said it had no bullets in it.

But, PC Bishop said: “I asked her how she knew the gun was fake. She told me she didn’t know, but it was.”

He added: “At no point in the conversation can she tell me why it’s a fake gun.”

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

Richard Cottier had been a miner for 20 years, said partner Melissa, but had been unemployed for 10 months at the time of his death. Photo: Ellie Hoskins - Credit: Ellie Hoskins

Fatal Shots

At around 4.40am, three firearms officers were sent to a petrol station in Collier Row Road, a short distance from Mr Cottier’s home.

At that time, said Mrs Persaud, their priority was to "protect members of the public and petrol station staff".

Mr Cottier was pronounced dead at the scene at 5.17am.

Jurors were told key questions included whether Mr Cottier “intended to bring about his death” and whether there was an “alternative, less lethal option reasonably available to the officers”.

“I don’t think he wanted to die that night,” Mrs Cottier told jurors. “I think everything escalated and he was kind of backed into a corner... I think everything happened so fast and he didn’t know what to do in the petrol station.

"I don’t think he envisaged what was going to happen.”

The inquest continues. 

When life is difficult, the Samaritans is available 365 days, 24/7. Call for free on 116 123, email jo@samaritans.org, or visit www.samaritans.org.

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