Image caption, No weapons were recovered from the home where Sean Fitzgerald was shot dead by police, his inquest heard

  • Author, Kevin Reide
  • Role, BBC Midlands Today

A man was shot dead within a second of coming to the back door of his home during a police raid five years ago, a court has heard.

Sean Fitzgerald, aged 31, was shot in the chest at point blank range in Coventry on 4 January 2019.

The counter terrorism specialist firearms officer, referred to in court as “Officer K”, reported seeing Mr Fitzgerald carrying something in his hand, but it turned out to be a mobile phone.

A hearing at Coventry Magistrates’ Court was part of a process to decide the scope and terms of an inquest into Mr Fitzgerald’s death next year, including whether police officers involved should be named.

Speaking at an event in January to mark the fifth anniversary of Mr Fitzgerald’s death, his partner Sharlene Whetstone said they had been “left in the dark for five years”.

“We can’t even grieve yet, how can we grieve when they’re just saying, ‘He’s gone and no-one is saying why’.”

Image caption, Sharlene Whetstone said she had been left unable to grieve

West Midlands Police is now applying for anonymity for a total of 22 employees, 11 of whom are specialist firearms officers, while West Mercia Police is applying for two employees to remain anonymous, described as senior intelligence officers.

Lawyers representing the forces argued Officer K and others should receive anonymity for safety reasons, as they could come into contact with serious organised gang members in the future.

They also put forward arguments against Officer K appearing in court in front of the victim’s family, including his brother, Liam Fitzgerald.

Image caption, Sean Fitzgerald died after receiving a single bullet wound to his chest

The lawyers argued they themselves would be at risk of being pressured by criminal gangs into revealing Officer K’s identity.

However, the lawyer representing Sean Fitzgerald’s family said it was important that the police were held to account and that this was a “powerful imperative for open justice” .

He added Mr Fitzgerald’s family should be able to see Officer K and other officers involved and that, “allowing 24 officers to come and go behind screens would undermine public confidence”.

Another hearing to decide the final terms and scope of the inquest will be held in the autumn, a date for that has yet to be set but it is likely Mr Fitzgerald’s family will have to wait until next spring.

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