Inquest has provided ‘answers’ for gunman’s daughter

The stand-off happened on Leagrave Common playing fields, behind high-rise flats in Marsh Farm
The stand-off happened on Leagrave Common playing fields, behind high-rise flats in Marsh Farm

The former partner of a man who shot himself in a Luton park says she will now be able to answer their daughter’s questions as she grows up, following the inquest into his death.

A jury at Dunstable Coroner’s Court yesterday returned a narrative verdict, saying 31-year-old Idi Atiba had died from a self-inflicted gunshot wound to the chest.

Police apprehended Mr Atiba on playing fields at Leagrave Common on January 24 last year, after receiving reports he was armed with a gun and fearing he could be on his way to kill his ex-partner, Tanisha Jones, the mother of his second child.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission said today that after reviewing footage it was impossible to ascertain whether the fatal gunshot – which happened as Mr Atiba sat down and pushed the butt of the weapon into the ground – was deliberate or accidental.

Today Ms Jones issued a statement through the IPCC, saying the last 22 months had been “extremely difficult” for her family.

“I now feel a sense of closure from the Inquest and have all the information I need to answer any questions our daughter may have as she grows up,” she said.

“I feel that the police made every effort to attempt to prevent him taking his own life. I would like to thank the IPCC for their support through this difficult time.”

The IPCC said today that Ms Jones’ address had a ‘warning marker’ attached to it for all calls to be treated as urgent.

A spokesman said: “Police rightly declared an authorised firearms incident and deployed specialist firearms officers promptly to the scene.

“Mr Atiba was stopped in open parkland at Leagrave Park by armed officers. Clear strategies for managing the developing incident were put in place and a decision was taken appropriately to contain Mr Atiba on the playing field, thereby allowing him space.

“Trained negotiators spent over 14 hours talking to Mr Atiba, continually attempting to get him to put his gun down.

“Negotiators believed progress was being made when Mr Atiba agreed to some revised conditions for delivery of a field phone.

“Tragically, shortly before noon on January 24, just after Mr Atiba reached a position where officers were happy they could safely deliver the phone, he sat down and while pushing the gun into the ground it discharged causing the fatal injury.

“From footage examined by the IPCC of these final moments it is impossible to say whether the gun was discharged accidentally.”

As police ran over to help Mr Atiba, one thought he saw the wounded man attempt to sit up with the gun in his hand.

“The officer believed the gun was going to be pointed at him and his colleagues so he fired a baton round at Mr Atiba to prevent him elevating the weapon,” the spokesman said.

“This was the only police weapon discharged over the course of the incident and the investigation deemed the use of the baton gun was reasonable in the circumstances.

“The IPCC investigation found that police responding to the incident acted in accordance with national guidance and Bedfordshire Police policies, and that officers made every effort to resolve the situation safely.

“The investigation found no evidence of any misconduct.”

After the conclusion of the inquest, Mr Atiba’s mother, Rosemary O’Garrow, told the BBC she felt the family should have been allowed to act as intermediaries during the stand-off.

“I think if Idi knew we were there and we were concerned he might not have done it, obviously we would have told him to find another solution to the problem.”

Bedfordshire Police Assistant Chief Constable Andrew Richer said officers had been “prepared to negotiate for as long as it took and always hoped that the situation could be brought to an end peacefully”.

He added: “Police spent 16 hours negotiating with him, through the night in freezing and wet conditions.

“Every effort was made by all officers concerned to try to resolve the situation safely but sadly Mr Atiba would not surrender his weapon.

“Each police officer, and each member of the emergency services, tried their hardest to save Mr Atiba in very demanding conditions.

“The Independent Police Complaints Commission report reflects the hard work that everybody did on the day.”