They’d have spared a wild animal, so why not this pitiful alcoholic?

By LIZ JONES

Last updated at 22:21 10 May 2008


The scene in a Chelsea square was eerily reminiscent (only with more blossom and a backdrop of sugar-frosted architecture) of that outside Stockwell Tube station on the day in 2005 when Jean Charles de Menezes was killed with seven bullets to the head.

And although the police had more provocation from their about-to-be-victim in West London – he was firing a gun from the window of his £2million-plus maisonette – Mark Saunders was obviously not a suspected terrorist, simply a deeply troubled, mentally ill young man.

He did not deserve to be shot dead in a hail of at least five

bullets (none of which came from his own gun), piercing his head, heart and liver.

What shocked me most about the scene on Tuesday evening was the sight of police marksmen wearing black balaclavas, crawling all over neighbouring roofs

as if they had bit parts in the latest Bruce Willis movie. Was the headgear completely necessary?

Mark Saunders

Shot dead: Mark Saunders

Perhaps the marksmen have been earmarked for future undercover assignments, but I doubt it. I think they absolutely loved pulling on the body armour, packing some heat and playing shoot the overpaid toff in the head.

I have long held a personal theory that the police officer who delivered the shots into de Menezes's head was a member of the SAS. The good old British bobby wouldn't fire that many

bullets at close range, would he?

It seems to me that, rather than bonking their mistresses during police time, those at the top of the constabulary should have been thinking up ways in which they could defuse a situation that was, after all, a "domestic."

Being surrounded by heavily armed, aggressively attired marksmen would have fuelled Mark's fear – I don't doubt he was very, very frightened – rather than dissipated it.

The police wouldn't even allow his wife, fellow divorce lawyer Elizabeth Clarke, the chance to reason with her 32-year-old husband – surely their best bet.

Wasn't the note Mark tossed from a window, in which he scrawled "I love my wife dearly xxx," a sign he had not completely lost sight of reality? A sign he was in fact remorseful (we have to remember here that Mark had not injured anyone) and would have listened?

The cack-handed way the Chelsea siege was handled makes me think, well, perhaps our police force, buoyed up by imminent terror threats from young boys who are, after all, deluded morons, have now adopted a "shoot first" policy. Why was tear gas not fired into the apartment? Why was Mark not winged instead?

Even a wild animal at large in West London would have been given the benefit of the doubt;

a warden from nearby London Zoo would have been summoned to end the matter humanely with a tranquilliser dart.

I'm sure there will be expensive inquiries into what happened,

but for Mark's parents and his widow, these will provide

little solace.

Mark, an alcoholic who was

suffering from depression, was allowed to renew his licence to possess a firearm only eight months ago. That fact proves, as if we needed more proof (remember the Dunblane and Hungerford massacres?), that all the red tape in which we are enmeshed serves very little practical purpose, other than to promote endless hand-wringing and calls for "change" well after the event.

This case also shows that the family of an alcoholic is often

powerless to help. I am sick of all this nonsense about "patient confidentiality" and the "right to choose."

Imagine Elizabeth and Mark's parents were at the end of their tether, frustrated at their inability to get Mark sectioned. When you talk to the GP of an alcoholic, you are given the platitude "they have to want to get better."

Well, my brother was married to an alcoholic for more than 15 years and despite all his long-suffering efforts to help his wife, he could do nothing.

Not even the threat of losing her two beautiful daughters, who used to return from school to find their mother passed out on the living- room floor, surrounded by empty bottles, was enough to ensure my sister-in-law found enough willpower to stop drinking.

She needed to be incarcerated, and given help to get better before she destroyed herself and everyone around her. If, as I have done, you dial 999 in an attempt

to avert the havoc about to be caused by an alcoholic, you will be told the police are "too busy."

Doing what, may I ask? Fiddling their expenses? Polishing their weapons? Writing up speeding tickets for those driving at 70mph on the motorway past deserted bollards? Playing Grand Theft Auto?

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