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Judges uphold unlawful killing verdict on man shot dead by AFO

Man carrying an axe failed to stop when challenged and was tasered four times

A firearms officer who shot dead a man carrying an axe in Hull City Centre has lost a judicial review to challenge an inquest jury verdict that the man had been unlawfully killed.

Lewis Skelton, 31, was tasered four times before he was shot twice in the back by an officer as he carried an axe.  An inquest jury in 2021 returned a unanimous conclusion that he was unlawfully killed.

After that decision, Humberside Police said they were “disappointed”, pointing out that the IOPC had cleared the officers involved.

The force supported the AFO who took the fatal shots – officer B50 – in pursuing a judicial review of the decisions made by coroner Oliver Longstaff which allowed the jury to consider an unlawful killing conclusion.

On Monday, two senior judges found against officer B50, saying: “We have stood back and considered whether, either singly or cumulatively, there is any proper basis for us to interfere with the conclusion of the jury. We are unable to identify any such basis.”

After the verdict Mr Skelton’s family’s solicitor Neil Hudgell, of Hudgell Solicitors, said the original investigation by the IOPC needed to be revisited.

The jury in 2021 heard that Humberside Police received a number of 999 calls on November 29 2016, saying a man was walking down Holderness Road carrying an axe.

Armed officers were deployed and two officers caught up with him.

Officer B50 said Mr Skelton, who had struggled with mental health problems, failed to stop when challenged and the use of a Taser four times by him and a colleague – identified only as Charlie – had no effect.

B50 fired two live rounds in Francis Street from his Glock 17 pistol as Mr Skelton approached a group of workmen and he said he believed their lives were at risk.

But, in the judgment handed down on Monday, Lord Justice Stuart-Smith and Mr Justice Fordham noted that Mr Skelton appeared to be ignoring members of the public as he progressed through Hull.

The judges also said that B50’s assertion that Mr Skelton acted in a threatening manner towards him on or around Caroline Place “was not supported by the available CCTV” and “nor was there support from CCTV for a suggestion that Mr Skelton had offered a threat to the officers by raising the axe when on Charles Street or when he got to Francis Street”.

They added: “Witnesses agreed that Mr Skelton was ‘out on his feet’ and the three workmen were some distance away and crossing the road away from Mr Skelton.”

Humberside’s Deputy Chief Constable Paul Anderson said: “Police officers often have to act quickly in challenging situations where there is extreme pressure and make split second decisions in a bid to protect the public from any harm.

“We acknowledge the IOPC’s full and independent investigation where they found that no police officer had either committed a criminal offence or behaved in a manner which would justify disciplinary proceedings.

“This was a tragic and difficult incident and the death of any person in such circumstances is an outcome that no one would have wished. Our thoughts and condolences remain with Lewis’s family and friends.”

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