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Siege barrister served in Territorial Army
Siege barrister served in Territorial ArmySadie Gray, Vikram Dodd and Esther Addley guardian.co.uk, Wednesday May 7 2008 Article historyAbout this articleClose This article was first published on guardian.co.uk on Wednesday May 07 2008. It was last updated at 17:55 on May 07 2008.
Armed police officers on the scene after gun shots are heard in Markham Square, Chelsea. Photograph: Carl de Souza/AFP/Getty Images
A gunman shot dead after repeatedly opening fire on police during a five-hour stand-off in an exclusive west London area has been named locally as a barrister who had served in the Territorial Army.
Mark Saunders, 32, exchanged fire with marksmen from the armed CO19 unit three times from his flat in Markham Square, Chelsea, just off Kings Road.
After the third bout of gunfire, police stormed the flat after apparently using stun grenades. Eyewitnesses reported seeing green flashes and hearing several loud bangs before the police went in.
Saunders was pronounced dead at the scene shortly after 9.30pm. It was understood he did not shoot himself but was killed by an officer.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) has opened an investigation into his death. Police sources said last night they were confident it would find he had been killed lawfully.
Saunders had belonged to the Territorial Army's Honourable Artillery Company for three years until 2002, military sources said.
He was an expert in family law, specialising in the division of assets after divorces, and was regarded as a emerging talent in his field.
Saunders was educated privately at Kings School, Macclesfield, and graduated from Christ Church, Oxford, with a law degree. He was called to the bar in 1999, and shortly after that he joined QEB chambers in Temple, London.
"He was a very valued member of the chambers, and obviously we are shocked and horrified by what has happened," a QEB spokeswoman said.
"We have no knowledge of the circumstances leading up to it and our thoughts are with his family."
His entry in Chambers & Partners Guide to the Legal Profession said: "Mark Saunders enters the up-and-coming category after a volley of praise.
"Observers note that despite his youth he has a 'maturity, unflappability and lack of hesitation in his addresses' that puts one in mind of the hoariest proponents of the law."
Saunders is thought to be the first person shot dead by Metropolitan police officers since Jean Charles de Menezes was killed in July 2005 at Stockwell underground station after being mistaken for a terrorist suspect.
The Independent Police Complaints Commission said in a statement released this afternoon: "The incident began just before 5pm when shots were heard. It would appear there were exchanges of fire during the course of the evening.
"Metropolitan police firearms officers entered a house in Markham Square and found the man. He was taken outside and given first aid, and an ambulance called. The man was pronounced dead at the scene.
"The Metropolitan police referred the incident to the IPCC immediately. Three IPCC investigators went to the scene, which has been preserved.
Speaking at the scene of the siege, Ian Bynoe, IPCC deputy chair, said this afternoon: "I know a firearm was recovered at the address and I'm led to believe it was lawfully held, and legally in the possession of the person it was issued to.
"Until the IPCC gets the result of the postmortem examination we have to keep an open mind on how this man came to suffer the wounds from which he died."
IPCC investigators were due to begin house-to-house inquiries, he added. The postmortem was due to take place this afternoon.
Saunders' father, Rodney, 64, told the Daily Telegraph: "We are not aware of anything in his work life or private life which might have made him react like this.
"It is bad enough to have a bereavement in the family, but this is exceptional by any standards. You could understand it if he was a terrorist, but Mark was not a terrorist."
Witnesses said the siege began after a woman, believed to be Saunders' wife, Elizabeth, also a family law barrister at the same chambers, was seen leaving the block of flats in distress.
In the days leading to the shooting, Saunders had been spotted rocking back and forth outside his flat in tears, a neighbour said today.
Other witnesses told how Saunders had been drinking in a nearby pub before the shooting and seemed agitated. He was also spotted in a jewellery shop, witnesses said.
Saunders and his partner were trying for a baby, neighbour Paddy Renous, 48, said. He revealed that Saunders had been drinking in the Phoenix pub nearby and said he understood Saunders was "fond of the sherbet".
Neighbour Steve Trainer, 42, of Bywater Street, said he saw Saunders about two weeks ago sitting outside his home in a state of distress. He said: "I saw Mark some weeks ago. He was sitting on the wall or pavement outside his flat and he was sobbing. I have no idea what about but he looked shaken. He was kicking the pavement with the toe of his foot, banging it really hard."
Officers were called after Saunders reportedly began shooting from the rear of a house in Markham Square. Marksmen forced their way into properties in adjacent Bywater Street to take up vantage points on balconies and at windows backing onto Markham Square.
Leslie Hummel of Bywater Street, whose garden faces Saunders' flat, said: "He was standing at the window which he hadn't bothered to open. He was just firing through a hole in it into the garden. I went to the ground level and discovered he had been shooting at my daughter's bedroom window. Thank God they were not there."
She described Saunders as "very, very calm" and said that he hadn't said anything other than: "I can't hear you," in response to a police question. "There was no swearing and no slurring."
A police negotiator arrived at the scene, but shots were again heard at 9pm, and then at 9.30pm, shortly after which Saunders was fatally injured.
Jane Winkworth, also a neighbour, said she ran for her life after Saunders took a pot-shot at her as she stood in the back garden of the three-storey Georgian terrace, where Saunders rented a flat worth £2.2m.
She was trapped in her basement flat with armed police as they tried to negotiate Saunders' surrender. During the siege he threw from the window a white cardboard box with "I love my wife dearly xxx" written on the side, she said.
A woman living in Bywater Street, who declined to be named, told how, without opening his window, Saunders began firing at random, breaking the window of her second-floor bedroom and sending shot spraying over pictures in the room.
She was outside with a friend, heard gunshots, and went upstairs to see Saunders re-loading the gun.
The woman said: "I had been sitting outside with a friend five minutes before. At first I thought they were firecrackers, or that he was shooting at a cat or something in a tree; but then I saw the shotgun."
Police cordoned off 200 metres of the exclusive area and told residents and workers in shops and restaurants nearby to stay indoors.
A woman living next door to the house where Saunders' flat was said: "I was making dinner for my two children just before 5pm when I heard shots. I heard three shots before the police arrived, then I heard three more after the police came."
Earlier, Linda Logan, 45, described how she could see armed police training weapons on a house in the square, three doors down from where she was visiting friends.
She said: "It's shocking. Earlier in the afternoon we heard a little cracking noise, which sounded like a builder had thrown a piece of concrete out of a window.
"We didn't take much notice at the time, but then about 15 minutes later there was another cracking noise and then a short succession of more cracks. We still didn't realise they were gunshots.
"Then we looked out of the window and saw that Kings Road had been shut off and there were armed policemen running past the house."
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