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Suicide verdict on Sutton St James seige man

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“Tell my family I only need a black bag. When you pick my body up, you put me in the black bag, you take me to the crem... burn me up and then dump my ashes and that’s all I want.”

Sutton St James grandfather Barry Horspool gave a “living will” during three hours and 50 minutes of telephone negotiations with police before pulling the trigger of his sawn-off rifle on January 31 last year and dying from a single bullet wound to the head.

On Friday, a jury at his inquest in Stamford took just an hour to return a verdict that Mr Horspool had taken his own life. It followed five days of evidence given by senior police officers, members of his family, a close friend and forensic experts.

The inquest had heard Mr Horspool (61) had not spoken to his daughter, Amanda Rutter, for two weeks after a family dispute and that the day of his death was his grand-daughter’s first birthday.

Police had been trying to negotiate with Mr Horspool since he first threatened to kill himself earlier in the day at his home in Chapelgate. He had shot PC Steve Hull in the face, who was observing the property from his car until other officers arrived to cordon off the area and make it safe.

The last time Mr Horspool answered his mobile phone was at 16.54pm.

Negotiator Sgt Richard Marriott told Mr Horspool: “Barry this doesn’t have to end like this today because you’ve got your daughter, Amanda, you’ve got a grand-daughter. Barry, is that right Barry?”

Sgt Phil Vickers, who was co-ordinator during the negotiations, said: “That was the last proof of life we had. The fact that he had given a living will made it clear it was his intention throughout to end his life.”

Barry’s mobile was found on the floor beside his body, along with the sawn-off rifle he had used to shoot himself.

Five armed officers and a dog handler searched the property at 10.29pm after continued attempts to make contact by landline and verbal challenges had failed.

A senior armed officer, preferring his name not to be printed because of the nature of his work, described how the house was bathed in light by negotiators on the ground, who had been trying to make contact by loud hailer during the 12-hour siege.

They had entered the house and climbed the stairs, protected by a door shield.

He said: “It was not a dynamic entry like the sort you see on TV. We made a slow systematic search of the lower level before searching the upper rooms. We continued to make verbal challenges and would have withdrawn had we made contact with Mr Horspool.”

The inquest had seen a family divided, with Mr Horspool’s daughter, Amanda, represented by one advocate and his brother-in-law, Brian Brown, acting for the brothers and sisters.

Coroner Dr Robert Forrest said: “I hope the inquest will help them bring closure to the events of that day.”

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There have been 20 more occasions in Lincolnshire where officers have been called to incidents involving a weapon in the past year since police negotiators tried to save the life of Barry Horspool.

The most recent was two weeks ago, when police received a report of a man threatening to harm himself inside a property in Clay Lake.

Assistant Chief Constable Roger Bannister said: “On this occasion we had a successful outcome with the man arrested after two hours of negotiations.

“Each of the incidents in the past year had a successful outcome, often after many hours of negotiations. This just shows how professional and well-trained our negotiators are.”

The regularity of calls to police regarding threats to life involving a weapon was highlighted during the inquest of Mr Horspool.

PC Karen Irvin, who was in the car when PC Steve Hull was shot in the face, said: “A lot of people have shotguns in Lincolnshire.

”We quite often get called to jobs and are told the person involved has a firearm.”

Negotiator co-ordinator Sgt Phil Vickers described how Sgt Richard Marriott sat in the control room face to face with another officer for support and with knees touching.

Sgt Vickers said: “Negotiations can take a number of hours. It can be a lonely and stressful time and we do this to give negotiators support.

“They are also kept in a separate area to the control room so that none of their responses are influenced by any tactical decisions that are made.

“Throughout negotiations with Mr Horspool we confirmed the progress we were having with the control room.”

Some 128 calls to Mr Horspool were made in the first two hours of negotiations, with many not answered. Because of long periods with no response, there was delay after the last call before armed officers entered Mr Horspool’s home and found he had shot himself. This was in spite of a “pop” which could have been gun fire being heard around the same time as the last call.

The circumstances of Mr Horspool’s death – specifically that as he was “in custody” as his home was surrounded by officers at the time he shot himself– resulted in the case being passed to the Independent Police Complaints Commission for review.

It was, however, passed back to Lincolnshire Police for investigation.

Assistant Chief Constable Bannister said it had been many years since an officer had been shot while on duty. He said: “An officer’s first priority is always preservation of life. It was tragic that Mr Horspool died, but we were satisfied everything that could have been done to save him was done.”

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A modified rifle described as a “dirty old thing” by the family of retired farmer Barry Horspool had probably been intended to be a humane killing weapon.

Forensic scientist Dr Philip Alexander showed the rusting weapon resembling a pistol to the jury at Mr Horspool’s inquest, pointing out the missing trigger cover and how the barrel had been shortened to ten inches.

Dr Alexander said: “Weapons like this are usually used to kill animals. It is a humane killing weapon.”

He said: “Mr Horspool’s body was found slumped against the wall of a bedroom, with his head resting on the edge of a wardrobe.

“On the left temple was an entry wound, which was a typical point for a self-inflicted gun wound.

“On the floor near the window was a single shot weapon.

“There was a spent cartridge in the breech and another by the window.”

Modifications to the rifle would have made it difficult to aim with accuracy. Dr Alexander pointed to the painting of Charles II on the wall above coroner Dr Robert Forrest in the room in Stamford Town Hall where the inquest was held.

He said: “Even the experienced firearms officers here today would have difficulty hitting Charles II. There would have been the merest chance, even with intent, of hitting his target.

“There is no way of proving what his intention was when he aimed out of the window.

“But the bullet that hit the police officer in the cheek could easily have been fatal.”

 

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