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EDITIONS
 Friday, 3 January, 2003, 20:07 GMT
Bill for siege reaches 500,000
Armed officers in Hackney
About 50 armed officers are still at the scene
The cost so far to the Metropolitan Police of one of the UK's longest-running sieges is estimated to be close to 500,000.

Police revealed the cost as they denied they were not doing enough to end the siege in Hackney, east London, which is now in its ninth day.

The aunt of the gunman - who has been holding a second man hostage - has spent a second day trying to persuade him to give himself up.

Police now say they are calling in a specialist psychologist.

Food being delivered
The gunman hauls up a food package by rope

Power to the flat in Graham Road has been cut off, but police have been delivering food parcels to the two men inside.

A man has since been arrested on suspicion of trying to smuggle cannabis in a piece of Kentucky Fried Chicken, which was dropped off at the site of the siege.

On Friday, two elderly women, living near the flat, were led from their homes by the London Ambulance Service.

One pensioner was carried from her home in a wheelchair and the other, Betty Gibson, said she was going to a residential home for three to four days.

More residents were told to evacuate on Thursday morning after several shots were fired on Wednesday.

Essential supplies

They joined 16 others who have been in temporary accommodation since the beginning of the siege.

More than 40 people who had been confined to their homes have chosen to stay and are being given essential supplies by Hackney Council.

About 50 armed officers have surrounded the flat since Boxing Day when they traded gunfire with a man armed with a handgun, as they tried to remove a car for forensic tests.
Betty Gibson and paramedic
Betty Gibson was escorted out by paramedics

Some residents are increasingly worried about the disruption the operation is causing.

Local shopkeeper Noora Nasser told BBC London he had lost trade.

"We have a siege extended to this extent only discourages people from other areas to come to this area to buy things. For people like us it has been very quiet."

Commander Bob Quick said he understood the concerns but defended police tactics.

"We recognise the significant disruption that this incident is causing local people," he told BBC London.

"But I can assure you that police officers are working around the clock to resolve this peacefully."

Longest siege

Trained experts are negotiating using a loudspeaker after a telephone was thrown out of the window.

The length of the stand-off has now surpassed the six-day Iranian Embassy siege in London of 1980.

The longest siege in London was that of the Libyan Embassy in 1984 which lasted for 11 days.

It was sparked by the killing of PC Yvonne Fletcher by machine-gun fire from inside the building.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  BBC London's Guy Smith
"Day nine, and for some residents it's all too much."

Click here to go to BBC London Online
See also:

01 Jan 03 | England
30 Dec 02 | England
29 Dec 02 | England
27 Dec 02 | England
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