Inquest hears police officer was not aware that Titchwell shooting victim was at “high risk” of suicide

Police seal off the car park of the Briarfields Hotel, where a man died of head injuries after a firearms incident. Police seal off the car park of the Briarfields Hotel, where a man died of head injuries after a firearms incident.

Wednesday, March 5, 2014
7:20 AM

A police officer who saw a man shoot himself while under arrest was not aware that he had been flagged up as being at a high risk of suicide and possibly in possession of a shotgun, an inquest has heard.

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PC Jonathan Miller decided not to handcuff Stewart Page after arresting him on suspicion of fraud at Briarfields Hotel in Titchwell on November 11, 2012.

But when the Hunstanton-based officer turned his back, Mr Page grabbed a shotgun he had stashed in his car, put it to his forehead, and pulled the trigger.

In the second day of an inquest into Mr Page’s death at Norfolk Coroner’s Court yesterday, a jury heard how Lincolnshire Police had identified the 60-year-old as a high suicide risk just weeks before.

Appearing as a witness, Detective Inspector Stuart Chapman said Lincolnshire officers had arrested Mr Page at his home in Market Rasen three weeks before he visited Norfolk. There they found suicide notes addressed to his ex-wife, Catherine Page.

Further enquiries showed that the 60-year-old had licenses for three shotguns, but only two had been accounted for.

Mr Page told officers he had sold the third gun for £180, according to Det Insp Chapman.

Despite the crucial information being recorded by officers to an internal police database, PC Miller was only informed that Mr Page was a “medium risk” missing person, rather than a suicide threat.

PC Miller told the inquest on Monday that he had asked Mr Page whether he intended to hurt himself when they first met at Briarfields. Mr Page said he had no intention of doing so.

When Miller later arrested Mr Page on suspected credit card fraud totalling £4,000 in the hotel’s car park, he felt he was “too weak” to run away as Mr Page was suffering from terminal throat cancer.

The officer then cleared the Toyota Verso hire car Mr Page had been driving of his possessions, and placed them into two bags.

He put the bags in the boot of his vehicle, and when he turned back, Mr Page was kneeling on the gravel car park with the gun against his head.

The jury took 20 minutes to decide that Mr Page had died of a gunshot wound to the head “while the balance of his mind was disturbed”.

The conclusion was that he had killed himself.

The inquest then heard from Steve Fernandes, operations manager of Norfolk and Suffolk Professional Standards, who said the breakdown in communication had been a “failing”. He added that procedures had been put in place to prevent a similar situation arising.

As a result, coroner Jacqueline Lake said she would not be issuing a report on the inquest.

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