Thursday, 24 October 2013

The Shooting of Stephen Waldorf

This notorious case highlighted the use of lethal force by the Police.  What made it all the more appalling was that they had almost shot to death, the wrong man.  Not content with pumping bullets into a severely wounded man, one of the officers then proceeded to violently pistol whip the victim into unconsciousness.  What made the Police start firing in a crowded street, and firing into a car with passengers?  The train of events began on 5th August 1982 when a man called David Martin, disguised as a security guard, entered a private cinema in Portman Close in the West End of London to rob it, but it went wrong, and Martin tried to escape.  Police were quickly on the scene, but Martin was armed, and he opened fire on the Police, seriously wounding one officer.  Martin escaped.

    He went to ground but was traced to Crawford Place, located off the Edgeware Road in September.  Police moved in and found Martin disguised as a woman.  He drew two guns but before he could use any, he was shot and wounded by Police.  He was in the cells at Marlborough Street Magistrates Court, but again, managed to escape. It was December 24th. Police now knew he had a woman friend, Susan Stephens, and she was put under surveillance.  She had received phone calls from Martin.

    14th January 1983 saw Susan Stephens travelling in the back of a hired Mini.  Driving was a friend Lester Purdey.  In the front passenger seat was film editor Stephen Waldorf.  Unknown to them, they were being trailed by a car with armed Police officers inside.  Only one knew what Martin looked like.  They were stuck in traffic in Pembroke Court, in the Earls Court area of London.  One officer approached the car on foot, DC Finch, who claimed the driver seen him, spoke to the passenger, who reached for the back seat.  Finch fired two shots into the near side rear tyre, then shot four times at Stephen Waldorf.  The other armed cop, DC Jardine, fired five shots through the rear window at Waldorf.  Lester Purdey leapt out of the car and ran,  Waldorf tried to follow Purdey despite serious injuries.  He was shot twice through the open door by Jardine.  Waldorf later remembered somebody putting a gun to his forehead, then saying "OK cocksucker!" then pulling the trigger, but his gun was empty.  Waldorf was then brutally pistol whipped as he lay critically injured, handcuffed and  dragged onto the pavement.  Susan Stephens was dragged screaming hysterically , from the car.  Stephen Waldorf had serious head, abdomen & liver injuries.  Miraculously, he survived.

    David Martin was later arrested again.  When challenged, he ran into West Hampstead Tube Station, but was arrested without incident.  He was convicted in court of the attempted murder of PC Nicholas Carr and sentenced to life.  He later committed suicide in prison.  Stephen Waldorf made a complete recovery and received £150,000 in compensation from the Police and Sue Stephens received £10,000 in compensation.  Finch & Jardine went on trial for attempted murder but were cleared.  The general consensus at the time, felt that the Judge`s summing up gave the Police a licence to shoot to kill, regardless of the situation.  Police firearms training has improved considerably but there are still serious incidents of unarmed people being shot dead, producing the claim that we are now very close to government sanctioned death squads. The fact that the officers were cleared means I cannot give my opinion on the actions due to our gracious libel laws.