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Harry Stanley's brother Jim
"I'm just looking for the truth to come out...and justice"
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Thursday, 20 April, 2000, 21:41 GMT 22:41 UK
Death of an East Ender
Harry Stanley demo
Harry Stanley's death sparked anger. Pic: Jess Hurd
by BBC News Online's Chris Summers

Imagine Arthur Fowler from TV's EastEnders walking out of the Queen Vic and being shot dead by police.

Picture his family being left for 18 hours before being notified of his death, despite him having documents on him which should have identified him.

But this is not just the stuff of soap operas. It happened in a real life East End community seven months ago.
Harry Stanley
Mr Stanley left behind a "devastated" family
Harry Stanley was 50 yards from his home in Hackney, east London, when he was shot dead by two officers from Scotland Yard's SO19 armed response unit.

The train of events was begun by two men who, unbeknown to police at the time, rang 999 as a joke.

Harry had been to his brother's house to repair a coffee table and was walking home with the table leg in a plastic bag when he met his death. It was the 11th death in five years involving the police in the Hackney and Stoke Newington area.

Cancer patient

Harry, a 46-year-old painter and decorator who had moved to London from Bellshill, Lanarkshire in the 1970s to find work, was ironically recovering from a serious operation when he died.

He had been suffering from cancer of the colon and surgeons removed the tumour and 18 inches of his intestines only a week earlier.
Harry Stanley's funeral
Hundreds turned out for Mr Stanley's funeral. Pic: Jess Hurd
Harry, who left a wife, Irene, and three children, was still awaiting the all clear on the night he died - 22 September 1999.

In a final twist of irony, his family was informed the operation had been successful - by the pathologist who carried out the post-mortem examination.

By then, a bullet in the temple and another in the hand had ended Harry's life.

The armed response unit had been called out after two men rang the police from a pub in Hackney and said an Irishman (Harry was Scottish) had just left with a sawn-off shotgun in a plastic bag.

The officers who shot Harry - who have been identified only as Inspector Y and Constable K - have been suspended from using firearms but remain on duty.

'Police violence'

Now the Justice for Harry Stanley Campaign is demanding an independent public inquiry into his death.

It has been supported by former mayoral candidate Glenda Jackson and local MP Brian Sedgemore, who is tabling an Early Day Motion on the matter next month.

Harry's best friend, Jim Wills, told BBC News Online: "The Stephen Lawrence case exposed the police's racism. But Harry Stanley's case exposed their disproportionate use of violence."

There are six armed response units in operation in London which work 24 hours a day. The campaigners want to know if the officers who shot Harry had come from another incident and may have been in a pent-up, trigger-happy mood.

Within hours of the shooting the Police Complaints Authority (PCA) had been called in and they put the investigation into the hands of Surrey police.

Harry Stanley tribute
Flowers mark the spot where Mr Stanley was gunned down pic: Jess Hurd
But the campaigners are unhappy with "police investigating police" and Mr Wills points out the Surrey force was already being investigated after a man was shot dead by police marksmen in Dorking in July last year.

The family complained about the time it had taken Surrey police to contact them after Harry died. This complaint is now the subject of a separate investigation by Suffolk police.

They must shout at least two clear warnings to a suspect and should only open fire if they believe an officer or a member of the public is in danger

Scotland Yard spokeswoman
Earlier this year a public interest immunity certificate was placed on the Surrey force's report to the PCA, meaning it will remain secret.

A Scotland Yard spokeswoman said she could not comment on the case in detail as it was the subject of a PCA investigation.

But she said the armed response units had clear rules of engagement: "They have to get permission from a senior officer to deploy arms.

'PCA report expected shortly'

"They must shout at least two clear warnings to a suspect and should only open fire if they believe an officer or a member of the public is in danger."

A PCA spokesman told BBC News Online: "The investigation by Surrey police is expected to be completed very shortly.

"Its final report will then be forwarded to the PCA for us to evaluate the investigation and assess its thoroughness and objectivity."

He said: "Once the authority is satisfied with the investigation, the Crown Prosecution Service will consider whether or not any police officers should face any criminal charges.

"At the same time another investigation, by Suffolk police, will start into complaints made by Mrs Stanley about police conduct after her husband died."

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