Police Cleared Over Fernhurst Shooting

14 November 2010, 11:44

A police watchdog has cleared the Sussex force of any blame over the fatal shooting of a 64-year-old man in May 2009.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said it had found no evidence of any misconduct or criminal behaviour by the force.

On Friday an inquest jury ruled the police had acted lawfully when they shot Mervyn Tussler.

The gun enthusiast, 64, was in despair that his ailing wife Winifred would have to go into a nursing home because she could not be looked after at home.

Firearms officers were deployed after Mr Tussler pointed a Colt 45 antique handgun at a manager at his sheltered accommodation when she went to check on him.

Mr Tussler, described as "caring and anti-establishment'', said: "I'm not letting a Government agency take my wife away so you better get lost.''

During a three-hour stand-off, police tried to start negotiations with him but he did not respond, the inquest was told.

A police dog sent into the property did not indicate anyone was inside and officers entered to find Mr Tussler motionless on his bed.

When police pulled away his duvet, Mr Tussler opened fire several times from his "cowboy-style'' gun, causing a bullet to penetrate an officer's protective vest.

Police threw a stun grenade into the room but it failed to subdue him.

Officers returned fire and he died from a single bullet wound to his abdomen at 2.20pm on May 8 last year at Ash Grove in Fernhurst, near Midhurst, West Sussex.

During the three-week inquest, jurors heard Mr Tussler threatened suicide after social workers told him during a meeting two days before he died that his wife needed more care than he could provide.

At the meeting Mr Tussler, who had been his wife's registered carer for 10 years, became upset and pointed his finger at professionals around the room, saying: "I never forget faces and I never forgive.''

Mrs Tussler had been spending an increasing amount of time in hospital following a long-term brain injury and had also developed a clot which spread to her lungs.

Before the fatal shooting, Mr Tussler telephoned the Royal Surrey Hospital asking staff to say goodbye to his wife of 13 years as he was going to kill himself.

Mr Tussler, who was on anti-depressants and had been drinking, also threatened to kill any police officers who turned up at his sheltered accommodation.

The inquest heard that "strong-willed'' Mr Tussler was devoted to his wife, known as Winnie, but became reclusive as her condition deteriorated.

The inquest jury, sitting at the Chatsworth Hotel in Worthing, ruled that "the fatal wound to the abdomen of Mr Tussler was caused by a shot which was lawfully fired''.