Inquest hears that air rifle could have been lethal in police shooting of Romford man

The inquest of a Romford father shot dead by police has heard the unloaded air rifle he was holding was powerful enough to kill someone.

Richard Cottier, 41, of Collier Row, was shot twice by police in the early hours of April 9 in 2018 – once in the left arm and once in the back – after calling 999 himself.

The jury at Barking Town Hall were previously told his partner of 23 years, Melissa Cottier, had assured police responding to the incident that the gun was “fake” and not loaded.

However, Robert Griffiths, a forensic scientist who previously worked for the Metropolitan Police for over a decade, gave evidence today (June 2) that it could have been lethal if loaded.

He told the court: “Even in it’s modified state, I’m satisfied that this weapon is capable of killing people. In my opinion, this is a genuine firearm, in law and in reality.

“The weapon was cocked but had not been loaded. However, just by looking at a weapon, you can’t tell whether it’s loaded or what condition it’s in.

“In my opinion, the air rifle constitutes a firearm. Although if a court were to decide that this weapon remains an air weapon (despite being sawn off), it could be freely possessed.”

Mr Cottier was holding a Webley Vulcan air rifle, which had been sawn-off “some time ago”, Mr Griffiths said, although no ammunition was found and Melissa had told police he had none.

Witnesses described him shooting the air rifle at the floor, although one remarked that he was “not sure if it discharged anything”.

Mr Griffiths said: “I found no damage (at the scene) that I could attribute to the discharge of a firearm, I examined the whole area and I found no damage.”

“What’s described by the two witnesses could be the sound of the weapon being fired without a projectile.

“It’s possible, if you are familiar with the two sounds, to distinguish (between a loaded and unloaded air rifle being shot). However, to someone unfamiliar, I do not think they would.”

The inquest also heard evidence from a number of police officers who responded to the incident and who all gave their evidence anonymously.

One officer, in a statement read to the court, described arriving at the scene after the shooting to find an officer “calm and collected”, adding he “asked for an evidence bag” for his gloves.

Mr Cottier was shot at around 4.45am and pronounced dead at the scene at 5.17am.

The inquest continues.


Victoria Munro

Local Democracy Reporter