Inquest Into Death Of Man In Luton Park

1 November 2012, 06:00

A father whose death was watched by members of the public, armed police and trained negotiators at the end of a 16-hour stand off died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest, a jury ruled on Wednesday.

The death of Idi Atiba, 31, was in full view of people living in nearby flats and was captured on camera by a BBC News helicopter and police photographers.

The father of two was surrounded by armed police on Leagrave Common playing fields in Luton, Beds. After receiving reports he had a sawn off shot gun they feared he was on his way to kill Tanisha Jones, the mother of is second child.

In an attempt to get him to surrender they spoke to him about his favourite football team, Chelsea, and even bought him
a McDonalds meal.

But at 11.52 in the morning of Monday January 24 last year - after a 16 hours stand off - he struck the butt of the gun into the ground and it went off causing a fatal wound. The inquest jury of 8 men and 3 women at Dunstable, Beds viewed video footage from the BBC and Bedfordshire Police in which Mr Atibi was seen to sit down and slump to the ground.

One of the armed officers surrounding Mr Atiba also fired a plastic baton round shortly afterwards, but that did not hit him, a pathologist said.

The jury was was told that at 7.20pm on Sunday January 23 the police received a call saying that Trinidad-born Mr Atiba had gone out with a shot gun and was on his way to kill his girlfriend, Tanisha Jones and her family or was going to kill himself. He was stopped at around 8pm at the playing field.

Bedfordshire coroner David Morris told the jury that they would have to decide if the police action was reasonable during the standoff  and if Mr Atiba, who worked as a car valeter, shot himself accidentally or deliberately. Because police were at the scene an investigation was carried out by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

In a statement read at the start of the 5-day inquest paramedic Gavin Turner said that as he attended the fatally injured man police officers were saying that he had not intended to shoot himself and that the gun had "gone off" when he moved. He was pronounced dead at the scene at 12 minutes past 1 despite efforts by doctors and paramedics to save him.

At the time he died there was no trace of alcohol or cocaine in his blood, but he may have been under the influence of drugs or alcohol at the start of the stand off.

Pathologist Dr Nat Carey said he died from a single gun shot to the upper left side of the chest. There was no impact from plastic bullets.

Mr Atiba's brother, Gregory O'Garrow, said that in November 2010 he had tried to jump off the roof of the Arndale car park in Luton and had been brought home by the police. He said he had been arguing with Tanisha and was worried about his children.

On Sunday 23 January he said Idi went out after putting his clothes in a bin having been told to tidy a cupboard in his room. He called Mr O'Garrow's partner Rachel's mobile. "He said he was going to kill himself and said she should call the police. He told her to look after everyone,"said Mr O'Garrow.

The police went to Mr O'Garrow's home and during the next few hours he said he spoke to them about the football team he supported and how they were going to get him something to eat.

The jury delivered a narrative verdict.

After the hearing Beds Police's Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Richer said: "This incident was shocking for everybody involved, the more so for it being played out in full view of the public. The information originally received was that Mr Atiba was heading towards the home of his estranged partner and was armed with a gun. Officers found him in Leagrave Park and it was apparent he had a sawn off shot gun with him, which he had already fired. Once Mr Atiba was contained in the park by armed police officers and there was no direct or immediate risk to the public, police spent 16 hours negotiating with him, through the night in freezing and wet conditions. We were prepared to negotiate for as long as it took and always hoped that the situation could be brought to an end peacefully. Every effort was made by all officers concerned to try to resolve the situation safely but sadly Mr Atiba would not surrender his weapon. The weapon was discharged when he struck the butt of the gun into the ground."