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Last Updated: Friday, 12 November, 2004, 18:30 GMT
Man said lighter was 'real gun'
Derek Bennett
Derek Bennett was shot dead by police
A man shot dead by police had earlier frightened another man by claiming his gun-shaped lighter was the "real thing", an inquest has been told.

Derek Bennett, 29, from Brixton, south London, was killed in July 2001.

Easton Chambers said he called the police after Mr Bennett had showed him the lighter and claimed it was real.

Mr Chambers said Mr Bennett, who he had met that day for the first time, was behaving in an aggressive manner which had made him nervous.

The delayed inquest began at Inner London Crown Court on Friday.

The jurors heard how Mr Chambers had been in a car outside his house with two friends, who knew Mr Bennett, on the day he was shot.

He was moving from side to side in an aggressive manner
Easton Chambers

Mr Bennett got into the car and began smoking a cannabis joint and started claiming that his lighter was a real weapon.

Mr Ian Stern, who is representing the police officers, read a statement made by Mr Chambers.

"You described how that man frightened you by the way he was acting and that he then produced a small silver handgun."

Mr Chambers agreed that he had then said Mr Bennett was "shuffling the pages of the book really fast and he was moving from side to side in an aggressive manner."

Taxi fare

The inquest heard how Mr Chambers then left the car to go back inside his house and he was followed by Mr Bennett who pushed past him into the building.

Giving evidence, Mr Chambers said: "He would cover it with the book and then move the book away. He was telling me to go upstairs... I saw it (the lighter) in the car.

"All I can remember was hearing him say it was real thing. It was making me nervous.

"I recall being scared and was in fear of my personal safety."

When Mr Bennett left a few minutes later, Mr Chambers phoned the police to say a man had been on his doorstep with a small gun.

The inquest earlier heard Gerda Douglas, who works at a cab firm close to where Mr Bennett was shot, described him as being "very agitated".

She said he had come into the office and argued over a fare before being refused a cab.

Silver handgun

Minutes later Mr Bennett was shot on a first-floor walkway outside some flats nearby.

Officers had believed the father-of-four was armed with a silver handgun, but he was later found to be holding a gun-shaped novelty lighter.

The inquest jury was also told that the "overwhelming majority" of evidence showed that only one of the two marksmen involved in the shooting had actually fired any shots.

Coroner Dr Selena Lynch told the inquest that they would hear evidence about the day of the shooting as well as about Mr Bennett's physical and mental health.

The hearing is expected to last about five weeks.


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