Elijah Holcombe shot dead by police in Armidale — (Daily Telegraph)

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Daily Telegraph

Adam Walters in Armidale

June 04, 2009 12:00am

THE wife of a mentally ill man shot dead by police said yesterday her husband was “the most gentle human being I have ever known”.

And she said police should be “ashamed of themselves” for killing her beloved Elijah Holcombe, gunned down after being cornered in a laneway in Armidale on Tuesday.

Just hours earlier police had driven the 24-year-old to Armidale Hospital for treatment as a psychiatric patient after he was reported missing by his parents in northern NSW. He had not taken his medication for two days.

In a letter to The Daily Telegraph, Mr Holcombe’s wife, who did not want to be named, outlined the events which led to her husband’s death.

She said his parents had repeatedly warned police their son – who suffered from depression to the point he had become “mentally unsound” –  had developed a fear of officers and pleaded with them that he not be approached.

Mr Holcombe, who was studying philosophy, was left in the care of Armidale Hospital but without adequate supervision managed to leave before a doctor could assess him.

Officers only learned of his release after they went to the hospital to return his car keys.

A short time later he was spotted by undercover police in a local shopping mall.

“The police started to follow my husband which made him scared and he began to run,” the wife said.

“The police then ran after him, scaring my husband even further”.

During the chase he grabbed a kitchen knife from a cafe before he was cornered in Cinders Lane, where he was shot in the chest.

Mr Holcombe’s wife said her husband did not deserve to die, describing him as “the most gentle human being I have ever known”.

“He was confronted by police about an incident and got confused and scared. He has never ever hurt anyone,” she said.

“Even if police thought shooting him was necessary, why wouldn’t they shoot him in the leg or the arm or in the shoulder?” the wife asked.

“They had him cornered in an alley. Shooting him was utterly unnecessary and the police should be ashamed of themselves.”

His wife was unaware investigations are now focusing on the circumstances of the victim’s admission to hospital after police had initially done all they could to ensure his care.

Five years ago Jane Moses, the only psychiatrist employed to teach trainees at the Police Academy at Goulburn how to deal with mental health patients, was forced to take redundancy after 15 years in the job.