INQUEST: Police swoop was needed ‘to protect public’

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Concern about the scale of police response surrounding the death of grandfather Barry Horspool has been addressed by a top cop in charge of the operation.

Armed and unarmed police swooped on the normally quiet village of Sutton St James on January 31 last year, with a helicopter hovering overhead.

Although the exact numbers have not been disclosed, some armed police took up position in houses opposite Mr Horspool’s home in Chapelgate, while the occupants remained inside.

Chief Supt Russ Hardy was gold command on the day, heading up a control room of 20 specialist officers and negotiators.

Addressing the jury of 11 at the inquest of Mr Horspool in Stamford on Tuesday, he said that his job was to come up with a strategy for the operation.

He said: “A call came into us at about 11am that there was a man with a high calibre weapon who had threatened to kill himself and others and to kill the police. We were also told a police officer had been shot.

“Based on this scant information, we agreed officers should go to the address to make the area safe and ensure minimum risk to the public.

“Armed officers were brought in because a gun had been discharged twice.

“The use of a helicopter gave us tactical options. We were able to use infrared to track where he (Mr Horspool) was and ensure he was a safe distance away to protect the public and police.”

Regular shift rotation on the cold January day added to the number of police officers that were visible in the village, said Chief Supt Hardy.

He said: “In a small village where residents hardly ever see an officer, it is understandable they could have been shocked by the numbers that day.”

Entry to Mr Horspool’s house by armed police was made on two occasions.

Chief Supt Hardy said: “Negotiations by telephone and loud speaker took place throughout the day, but armed police entered the property on two occasions.

“The first time, around 1pm, was to check Mr Horspool was still alive. Officers were withdrawn immediately so he did not feel under additional pressure.

“The second time, at around 10pm, was a full scale search as negotiations has stopped for some time. It was then Mr Horspool’s body was found.”

Investigations that followed were led by Det Insp Paul Callum of the East Midlands Major Crime Unit.

He said: “We found Mr Horspool slumped against a wall. A wardrobe that had been pushed up against the door had been moved away. The net curtains had a small hole with cinder marks.

“We did not think it was necessary for finger prints and DNA testing. Other than making the weapon safe, we allowed the body to be removed for post mortem.”

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A chilling account of the events before support arrived was given by the special response officer in the car with the policeman who was shot.

PC Karen Irvin had accompanied PC Steve Hull to Chapelgate because earlier that day they had been dealing with a road traffic accident.

She said: “PC Hull was driving because he said I drove like a girl.”

When offered a picture of the house where Barry Horspool lived to help her recall what happened, she said she did not need it.

Her eyes fixed forward and away from the blood-stained statement she had written back at the station after help arrived, she said: “I can still see the house. My eyes were dodging all over, watching the house and a rusty shed.

“I was looking up at a window and I saw a bulge in the net curtain. I said ‘that curtain moved’.

“There was a bang and I had blood all over me. I saw a hole in the car window and I was afraid Steve’s face had been shot off.

“He was staring straight ahead, but then his eyes moved.

“I pressed the emergency button in the car. I called on the radio for help and said an officer had been injured and needed an ambulance.

”I had to calm myself or my voice would have gone high and I was afraid no-one would understand me.”

Describing getting the first aid box from the back of the car, the tone of her voice changed to one only a close colleague would use.

She said: “I told Steve I needed to patch up his face because he looked a mess and then told him to move into the passenger seat.

“There was glass falling on my leg and I thought ‘sod this, if I’m going to have to drive to Pilgrim I’m not going to have glass on me’.”

Their entire watch lasted about 25 minutes.

PC Irvin said: “We just carried on. I had to stop people going near the house.

“When you get a call you never know what you are going to find. You just try to do the best job you can.”

PC Hull was taken by ambulance to hospital. He said: “Doctors removed a projectile embedded in my cheek.

“It had gone through my lip and rebounded off my teeth.”

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Two weeks before the death of Barry Horspool, he had told his wife to move out because he wanted to be alone.

The inquest heard Mr Horspool woke up on the morning of his grand-daughter’s first birthday intending to shoot himself.

His son-in-law, Paul Rutter, said Mr Horspool had not seen her since he had an argument with his wife, Amanda, over the way he spoke to her mother, Barbara Horspool.

Mr Rutter said he had been at home with his daughter opening presents when Amanda rang him asking him to go to Mr Horspool’s house because she was concerned following a conversation with her mother.

He said: “I spoke to Barbara and she told me Barry was going to shoot himself.

“When I arrived I gave my daughter to Barbara. She told me Barry had locked himself in the wash house. I kicked the door in and saw him loading and fiddling with a gun.

“He was smoking a cigarette – he hadn’t smoked for years. I made a grab for it and he said ‘**** off or I’ll shoot you’.

“I told him I would call the police and he said if the police came, he would shoot them. I think it was a cry for help that got out of hand.”

* The hearing continues