26 November 1998

27 November 1998 Bedford Coroners Court, Shire Hall, St Paul’s Square, Bedford Sitting with HM Coroner for the District of Bedfordshire and Luton Mr David Morris

The inquest into the death of 32 year old Irish man, Michael Fitzgerald, an unemployed railway supervisor, concludes on 26 November 1998 in Bedford.

Police shot Mr Fitzgerald dead on 26 February 1998 in his own house following an investigation into an alleged burglary.

The inquest jury has heard evidence that no trained negotiator was called to the scene during the 90 minutes of the operation and that the officer who fired the fatal shot and his colleague took the decision to move into a potentially dangerous position on their own. Leslie Thomas, counsel for the family put it to the officers that it was not absolutely necessary to have taken such a step.

INQUEST is concerned that the Coroner has allowed the officers involved to remain anonymous and the two who have given oral evidence to do so from behind a screen. This sets a dangerous precedent at a hearing which is supposed to be open and public and raises serious questions about the function of the inquest in allaying suspicion and rumour. It is also unnecessarily harsh for the family to be prevented from seeing the officer who shot their loved one.

The failure of the police to call a negotiator mirrors previous cases where police have shot people dead underlining the failure of the inquest system to ensure that lessons are learnt from previous tragedies.