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EDITIONS
Friday, 10 January, 2003, 12:49 GMT
Siege locals 'horrified' at gunman's death
A police marksman takes aim at the bedsit in Hackney
Some residents feel police should have intervened sooner

Britain's longest siege for 30 years finally came to an end when police fired special grenades designed to cause confusion into the bed-sit where the gunman had been holding out for 15 days.

Moments later armed officers climbed a ladder to the first floor and shone torches through the window.

They discovered a body lying near the back door.

Earlier police negotiators had been trying to contact Eli Hall by loudhailer.

'We will listen'

They shouted: "Eli - I have asked everyone to be quiet. And we will listen - we will listen out for you. I need you to make any noise that you can."

No sound ever came. It is not clear if the gunman was hit during an exchange of fire with police marksmen earlier in the day or whether he died from smoke inhalation. The building had been burning for most of the day.

a lot of people around here thought they should have gone in after at least a couple of days."

Julie Hedges
Maria Peaney, a local resident who watched the drama unfold, expressed her sadness at the way it had ended:

"So shocked really even, you know, we were all waiting for it to finish and it's good it's finished and we can go back to normal. But to think there's a dead man lying in there is quite horrible".

The stand-off began on Boxing Day when Hall fired a shot at police officers attempting to remove his car.

No power or food

For 11 days he held another man hostage. He remained defiant, despite having no heating, no lighting, and no food.

For local residents it has meant huge disruption.

Forty three residents were forced to remain in their homes throughout the siege because they were potentially in the gunman's line of fire. Dozens of others had their movements severely restricted.

Many believe the police should have acted to bring the siege to a much earlier end.

An armed policeman moving into position during Hackney siege
Armed police surrounded the flat for more than two weeks
Julie Hedges said: "If they could have come to some sort arrangement before and he'd have come out, I'm sure it would have been a lot better.

"How long does it take for them to realise that something is not going to end peacefully? I'm sure a lot of people around here thought they should have gone in after at least a couple of days."

'Heads should roll'

Another resident, Peter Kelly, commented: "If they can blast out the windows with baton rounds, and then get CS gas in there, they could have done that on day one - they could have done it. But actually the guy might even be alive. Heads should roll."

But the man in charge of the operation, Commander Bob Quick, defended the way it was handled.

He said: "We would always have to justify our actions, particularly where fatality or serious injury occurs to a court or a tribunal of some description.

"The police demonstrate the ability to be tolerant, to be patient and to always pursue a peaceful outcome wherever that is possible".


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