Romford shooting officer: 'I honestly believed I was going to be killed'
- Credit: Ellie Hoskins
A police officer who shot a Romford father three years ago has told jurors he believed he was about to be killed.
The former Metropolitan Police firearms officer said he shot Richard Cottier, 41, but it was the first time he had ever discharged his weapon on an operation.
Codenamed PW47 and testifying from behind screens, he appeared at Mr Cottier’s inquest – at Barking Town Hall – on Thursday.
During his testimony, jurors were played footage of the moment Mr Cottier was shot, taken from PW47’s body-worn camera.
It showed that roughly 15 seconds elapsed between police driving onto the forecourt of the petrol station and firing the fatal shots.
Mr Cottier died on April 9, 2018, after dialling 999. PW47 said his armed response vehicle had been directed to a rendezvous point at the Bell and Gate, then dispatched to the Esso station on Collier Row Road, after Mr Cottier’s partner Melissa reported that he was heading there.
She told police Mr Cottier had said he was going there to commit an armed robbery, but she did not believe that was his true intention.
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As PW47's car approached the Esso station, he said he observed Mr Cottier walking “purposefully” towards the forecourt with an unidentifiable object in his hand.
As officers drove onto the forecourt, PW47 said he saw Mr Cottier “violently slamming this object in his hand against the window of a blue Ford Fiesta”.
The court heard on Tuesday from two occupants of the Fiesta.
They said Mr Cottier had hit the window of the car once with the butt of the gun.
Two men inside the car said they had quickly identified Mr Cottier's gun as an air rifle.
PW47 said that after hitting the Fiesta, Mr Cottier had raised the weapon, at which point he saw it “clearly”.
“I could see that the barrel had been shortened and I could see that the stock had been shortened,” he said.
He recalled thinking: “Something very bad is happening and we need to do something about it.”
Coroner Nadia Persaud asked: “Did it look to you to be a weapon that was capable of lethal force?”
“Absolutely,” he replied.
He testified that he didn’t “have knowledge or remember” being told that the gun might be a fake, which recordings show Melissa Cottier repeatedly told police.
Mrs Cottier had also stated that she believed the gun did not contain any ammunition, which PW47 said he had been unaware of.
Asked by Mrs Cottier’s lawyer Stephen Simblet QC whether he had had any doubts that the gun was real, PW47 replied: “Absolutely not.”
After exiting his car, PW47 said he “gave as loud a challenge as possible of ‘armed police’", to identify himself, and then "as a team, pushed forwards in order to contain Mr Cottier and try to get members of the public away from where he was, because of the way he was acting at that time".
“I continually shouted at him to drop the gun, or words to that effect."
After Mr Cottier had been shot, officers put him in handcuffs and began administering first aid.
PW47 recalled finding “quite a catastrophic wound to his neck.”
Asked whether he could have used a less-lethal weapon, PW47 replied: “We were working with intelligence that we were going to face a conventional firearm and as such, we would also meet that with a conventional firearm ourselves.”
He told the jury: “At that moment in time, I honestly believed that I was going to be killed.”
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