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Thursday, 19 July, 2001, 22:47 GMT 23:47 UK
Inquest into police shooting adjourned
Derek Bennett's cousin Neil, mother Violet and sister Sonia
Mr Bennett's family visited the spot where he was shot
An inquest into the death of a man shot by police in south London on Monday, has been opened and adjourned until next February.

Derek Bennett, 29, was shot six times by officers who thought he was armed with a silver handgun.

It turned out that the father-of-four had been holding a cigarette lighter shaped like a gun.


The question that we really want to know is what happened

Anthony Bennett
Brother
Family and friends of Mr Bennett attended the formal opening of the inquest at Southwark Coroners Court in south London on Thursday.

Assistant deputy coroner Dr Roy Palmer adjourned the inquest until 4 February 2002, after reading a statement from Mr Bennett's father, Ernest, formally identifying the body of his son.

Dr Palmer told the family: "I would like to say that I am so sorry that this tragedy occurred and we shall do what we can in this court to deal with things expeditiously."

The three-minute hearing heard from coroner's officer Barry Goodyear that a post-mortem had been held on Wednesday and a second was due to be performed on Friday.

'Justice'

The inquest also heard that an inquiry into the shooting was being conducted by Northumbria Police under the command of Superintendent Steve Bowlam.

Mr Bennett's parents are demanding a full explanation as to why their son died.

The Police Complaints Authority has also launched an investigation into the shooting and the officer who fired has been taken off operational duties.

Speaking after the opening of the inquest, the family said they wanted to know the sequence of events that had led up to the incident.

Mr Bennett's eldest brother Anthony said: "As a family we are deeply saddened and upset as to the nature and loss of my brother Derek.

Gun-shaped lighter similar to one used by Brixton man
Gun-shaped lighter similar to one used by Brixton man
"The question that we really want to know is what happened, what were the sequences of events that led up to my brother being shot?"

Mr Bennett said he hoped the police investigation into the shooting would bring truthful and impartial answers to the family's questions.

"We hope to get some justice to the death of my brother. Derek was a lovable brother, a lovable son and a loving father who worked very hard," he said.

After the inquest the family visited where Mr Bennett was shot in Crowhurst Close to lay flowers.

The family's solicitor, Imran Khan, said a memorial service would be held next week to commemorate the life of Mr Bennett.

He said: "The family still haven't received a full picture of precisely what happened and I have suggested that the family are not going to be happy with anything but a meeting with the Police Commissioner."

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