Marksman cleared of Rodney murder

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Published: Friday 3rd July 2015 by The News Editor

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A top police marksman who blasted suspected armed robber Azelle Rodney six times at close range 10 years ago has been cleared of his murder.

Anthony Long, 58, allegedly took just six hundredths of a second to open fire on the 24-year-old after his unmarked police car pulled up as part of an operation to foil an attempted robbery on Colombian drug dealers.

A trial heard he fired off eight shots in 2.1 seconds, six of which fatally injured Mr Rodney who was the back seat passenger of a Volkswagen Golf which was boxed in during the “hard stop” by armed police in Hale Lane, Mill Hill, north London.

In making the split-second decision to open fire, the prosecution asserted Long would not have had time to see whether Mr Rodney was doing anything that might pose a risk to the public and police.

But retired Long, who was commended seven times during his distinguished 33-year career with the force, denied murder and maintained that he believed his colleagues were in “imminent” danger.

At the time, police intelligence had suggested that the gang was armed with at least one deadly machine gun as they prepared to strike the Colombians in Edgware, north London on the evening of Saturday, April 30 2005.

However, a search of the car later revealed that although there were three weapons, none were automatic and only one was loaded, the court heard.

After deliberating for 12 hours and nine minutes the Old Bailey jury found him not guilty of murder.

The verdict will come as a bitter blow to the family of Mr Rodney who have attended court daily as the latest chapter of their long-running fight.

The jury was not told the outcome of a judge-led inquiry in 2013 which concluded that the shooting was not legally justified and Long’s accounts of what he saw in the seconds before opening fire should not be accepted.

Details of Long’s operational history, which included an incident in which he shot two other suspects dead, were not divulged in evidence either.

At the conclusion of the inquiry, Mr Rodney’s mother Susan Alexander had said of her son’s “wholly avoidable” death: “The fact that he was strongly suspected of being involved in crime does not justify him or anyone else being summarily killed.”

She did not react as the verdict was delivered.

Mr Long nodded to the trial judge Mr Justice Sweeney as he was discharged and smiled as he shook hands with his two dock officers.

Afterwards, he said: “I am very grateful to the jury for returning a not guilty verdict. It has been very difficult facing trial for something that happened 10 years ago when I had acted to protect the lives of others as a part of my job and based on my training and experience.

“Police firearms officers do not go out intending to shoot people and, like me in this case, have to make split second life or death decisions based on the information available to them at the time.

“I want to thank my family and friends who have stuck by me and supported me during this difficult time. I also want to thank the Police Federation that has supported me throughout and my legal team from Slater and Gordon.”

Mr Long’s lawyer, Scott Ingram from Slater and Gordon, added: “Mr Long has always maintained his innocence and he is relieved at today’s verdict. He can now draw a line under the matter which has dominated his world over the past 10 years and get on with the rest of his life.”

Published: Friday 3rd July 2015 by The News Editor

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