MPs: Shooting inquest 'false police statement' claim should be investigated
- Credit: Ken Mears / Ellie Hoskins / Richard Townshend
Havering MPs have backed calls for an investigation after a witness testified in open court that their statement about a police shooting had been partly falsified.
Richard Cottier, 41, was shot by police on April 9, 2018, at a Collier Row petrol station.
His partner Melissa Cottier said she expected the Metropolitan Police to refer itself to the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) over testimony at his inquest.
"There should be an investigation into all this,” she said. “What they’ve done is not right. You can’t change people’s police statements.”
The charity Inquest, which represents families in state-related deaths, agreed: "This must be investigated by the IOPC and the police should have referred themselves without delay."
But the Met said it would not refer itself because the coroner had not asked it to.
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Before he was shot, Richard Cottier dialled 999 and left home with an unloaded air weapon.
Jurors were told the only short-form verdict allowed was "lawful killing", as there was no evidence that police did not honestly believe Richard posed a threat.
But Melissa wants an investigation after one of only two civilian eyewitnesses to the shooting claimed false information was inserted into her police statement, exaggerating how long officers tried to communicate with Richard before killing him.
Witness Jacqueline Squibb had driven two friends to the petrol station that night to buy cigarettes.
Coroner Nadia Persaud read her police statement aloud.
It said: “They shouted several times for the man with the gun to put it down or get down. This lasted for approximately at least a few minutes... There were several minutes between the warning and the shots fired.
"I would say no longer than five minutes."
But asked if she agreed with her statement, she said she did not.
“There are words that have been put in there that I haven’t said,” she testified.
Asked which part she refuted, she said: “When the police came into the garage. They came straight in, got straight out of the car, said it twice – ‘get down, get down’ - and then shot him twice.
"It doesn’t say that in my statement. It says other things – that it took longer."
Video evidence proved Ms Squibb’s testimony was accurate and the information in her statement was false.
Police shot Richard around 15 seconds after arriving.
Ms Squibb also denied saying she thought Richard was “on crack”, as her statement claimed.
“I don’t know where that came from either,” she said.
The IOPC investigated Richard's death before the inquest and found no wrongdoing.
Asked whether it would investigate Ms Squibb's claims, a spokesperson said: “There was no fresh evidence heard at the inquest into the circumstances surrounding the death of Mr Cottier which would warrant us to re-examine the findings from our investigation.”
But Melissa said Ms Squibb’s testimony raised questions about officers’ actions after the killing and Mrs Cottier said she believed the Met should refer itself.
But the Met said: “We have received no recommendations from the coroner regarding evidence given to the inquest and therefore will not be self-referring to the IOPC.”
Natasha Thompson, senior caseworker at Inquest, said: "It is extremely concerning that a witness statement, which was vital to uncovering the truth about a fatal police shooting, may have been recorded incorrectly by the police.
"Such an accusation, not least one made during the course of an inquest, requires the utmost scrutiny.
"Modified or coordinated statements are sadly a familiar complaint from families in these cases."
Romford Conservative MP Andrew Rosindell said Richard’s death was “a tragedy”.
“I support all efforts towards greater transparency in incidents such as this,” he said.
“If there has been wrongdoing then it must be investigated and if mistakes have been made then lessons must be learnt.”
Labour MP Jon Cruddas said: “I would urge the Met to refer this to the IOPC.
“There seem to be a number of discrepancies and in a case of this nature, it is of the utmost importance that all involved act with transparency and are held to account.”
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UPDATE: The IOPC said it had since reviewed evidence in the case and found no evidence that Ms Squibb's statement had been falsified. For more, click here.