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EDITIONS
 Friday, 10 January, 2003, 18:53 GMT
Siege gunman's body removed
The burnt out flat
The body was found after the fire was extinguished
The burnt body of a gunman at the centre of London's longest armed siege has been removed by police.

Undertakers arrived on the scene shortly before the body, believed to be that of Eli Hall, was wheeled from the flat in Hackney, east London.

Scotland Yard said it would be several days before forensic examinations of the flat where the 15-day siege took place and surrounding area were complete.

Before he died the gunman had vowed never to be taken alive, officers said.

His body was discovered on Thursday evening as police used ladders to peer into the flat following a fire thought to have been started by the gunman.

But it could not be recovered immediately as the building was structurally unsafe.

Eli Hall
Eli Hall is believed to have died at the siege flat
The death has been referred to the Police Complaints Authority, which will supervise an investigation.

Metropolitan Commander Bob Quick defended the way the Met handled the situation.

He said: "The hostage was released without harm, no member of the public was harmed and no member of the emergency services was harmed. I very much believe this was a success.

"I would like to emphasise our sincere appreciation for the patience and forbearance of local residents who've displayed remarkable tolerance in the face of immense disruption."

Local MP Diane Abbott has given her backing to police tactics.

She told BBC Radio Four's Today programme they could not have handled the situation any other way.

She said: "The alternative would have been to run in there and riddle the man with bullets the day after Boxing Day.

Scene outside siege flat after fire broke out
The property was badly damaged by a large fire
"But that would have been fraught with difficulty for the police and it would not have been particularly good for long-term police community relations."

The siege began on Boxing Day when police were fired on as they tried to remove a car for forensic examination.

Another man was held hostage for the first 11 days of the stand-off, but he managed to escape on Sunday.

Police believe Hall had two firearms and a quantity of ammunition in the flat during the stand-off.

He served six prison sentences during the 1990s and was wanted for questioning about two previous incidents where police had been shot at last year.

He reportedly told officers he was on a mission from the Rastafarian God, Jah, and had enough ammunition to "fill a bath".

Graham Road, the centre of the siege, remains closed but many of the residents in adjacent streets have started returning home.

  WATCH/LISTEN
  ON THIS STORY
  The BBC's Jane-Frances Kelly
"Police insist the operation wasn't a failure"
  Commander Bob Quick, Metropolitan Police
"We do not yet know precisely the cause of death"
  Local MP Diane Abbott
"I don't believe the police had any choice but to use the tactics they did"
  BBC London's Guy Smith
"It is still unclear exactly how Eli Hall died"

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