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Last Updated: Wednesday, 15 December, 2004, 15:32 GMT
Gun lighter man lawfully killed
Derek Bennett
Derek Bennett was shot four times
A verdict of lawful killing has been returned by the jury in the inquest of a man shot dead by police while carrying a lighter shaped like a gun.

Derek Bennett, 29, was hit four times by two marksmen in Brixton, south London, on 16 July 2001. The officers said they thought the gun was real.

Coroner Selena Lynch directed the jury to return the lawful killing verdict.

Mr Bennett's relatives described the jury's verdict as "outrageous" and a "travesty of justice".

He died after armed officers opened fire when he grabbed John Knightly, 53, and held the "weapon" to his head.

The Inner South London inquest heard Mr Knightly wriggled free at which point Mr Bennett turned the novelty lighter on police and tried to take cover behind a pillar as they fired six shots at him.

We are devastated and our grief is compounded by this outrageous decision of the court
Derek Bennett's father Ernest

Doctors had recommended the former psychiatric patient be committed to a mental hospital under the Mental Health Act just a week earlier.

Giving evidence from behind a screen, one of the policemen, identified only as "Officer A", said he fired on Mr Bennett..

"I thought he was going to shoot me so I fired. I fired at least two shots very quickly," he said.

Speaking outside court, Mr Bennett's brother Daniel said: "For the last three years we have been fighting to ensure those responsible for the death of Derek are brought to justice.

"At the very least we hoped the jury would be able to consider all the verdicts, in our view Derek was unlawfully killed.

Daniel Bennett
Daniel Bennett has fought his brother's case for three years

"We hoped the jury would agree with us, but the decision by the coroner meant they were not allowed to do this.

"This is a travesty of justice which should never have been allowed to happen."

In a statement, Mr Bennett's father Ernest said: "We are devastated and our grief is compounded by this outrageous decision of the court."

The family's solicitor Imran Khan said he will take the case to the High Court.

Following the verdict, the Met's Deputy Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said: "This has been a stressful time for the family of Derek Bennett and the two police officers and their families."

Gun-shaped lighter
Officers said they thought the gun-shaped lighter was a real weapon

He described the protracted legal process as unfortunate and said an urgent review will take place into the speed and manner which shootings involving police are handled.

"This incident and its tragic outcome only further underlines the very real dangers presented by realistic replica firearms being readily available," he said.

He also called for protection for armed officers, who act in good faith, from serious criminal charges.

The two officers were removed from firearm duties after Mr Bennett's death but that will now be reviewed, he said.


FROM OTHER NEWS SITES:
Guardian Unlimited Jury decides police shooting was lawful - 8 hrs ago
Sky News Jury Ruling On Police Shooting Of Patient - 20 hrs ago
Black Information Link Coroner orders jury to find Derek Bennett was lawfully killed - 38 hrs ago
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SEE ALSO:
Man said lighter was 'real gun'
12 Nov 04 |  London
Shooting police not charged
25 Mar 03 |  England


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