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3:10PM BST 21 Aug 2009
Police were called to the cathedral after 39 year-old David Sycamore showed a university student a replica gun and told him he was going to ”start shooting people” in the Surrey town.
Mr Sycamore was then seen to pull out the gun on the steps of the cathedral on the afternoon of November 30 last year and point it at police.
The administrative assistant, who lived with parents Roy and Linda nearby, was then shot in the chest and arm by two Surrey police officers who feared he was going to kill them.
It was not discovered until after his death that the 8mm gun could only fire blanks.
Despite efforts to save his life, Mr Sycamore, who had been diagnosed with depression and was taking anti-depressants, was pronounced dead at the scene. It took the jury of six women and five men six hours to reach the verdict after a five-day inquest in Woking.
Michael Burgess, the Surrey coroner, said: ”This case if nothing else shows very graphically that the carrying of arms, whether real or imitation, is very dangerous, and as in this case, may prove to be fatal.”
He extended his condolences to the Sycamore family. An Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation was carried out after the shooting and found there were no criminal charges for officers to answer.
Surrey police welcomed the outcome of the inquest.
A force spokesman said: “Our sympathy is with the family and friends of David Sycamore, who died in such tragic circumstances, and with our officers and their families, for whom the traumatic effect of this type of incident should not be underestimated.
“This case reinforces our message that carrying BB and replica guns can be extremely dangerous. They are often indistinguishable from real weapons and can mean that our firearms officers have to make a split-second decision in a life-or-death situation.
“Surrey police firearms officers are trained to the highest standards and are, on occasion, placed in difficult and challenging situations where instant decisions have to be made with a view to protecting the public, their colleagues and themselves.”
Inspector Malcolm Biles of Surrey Police, who co-ordinated the response to Mr Sycamore’s threat, said he deployed armed units to the streets of Guildford at 2.56pm after Surrey University student Christopher Sumsion dialled 999.
Mr Sycamore was found at 3.14pm outside the cathedral. Two minutes later, the force helicopter announced they had sight of him, sitting crossed legged on the floor.
Giving the verdict, the jury foreman described what happened next, saying: “There was a verbal exchange between David and the police. David showed awareness of the police presence but did not comply with commands given.
“At the stage, the four officers were outside their vehicles, with weapons ready but not visible to David. David unzipped his jacket, at which point repeated verbal commands were issued.
“Again, David did not comply with any requests made. David proceeded to reach into his jacket and pulled out a gun. Officers shouted: ‘Armed police’. David raised the gun then brought it down into his lap and used his left hand to make the gun ready for firing.”
He pointed the gun at an officer, identified only as B2, who shot him. Shots were fired from another officer at the same time. Mr Sycamore fell backwards, and officers rushed to resuscitate him but were unsuccessful.
Police officer Adam Patterson, who was at the Sycamore family home when the news of the death was broken to them, told the inquest how Mrs Sycamore said her son had wanted to be shot by police.
He said she was “hysterical”, and that she told them: “He’s done it on purpose. He’s gone up there so the police would shoot him.”
Pc Patterson said: “I wasn’t aware of the situation, or of David’s past, but from the conversation we had in the house leading up to the death message, I was under the impression he had gone up there to commit suicide.”
Mr Sycamore’s brother Mark said he did not recall his mother saying that however, adding that she had broken down in tears. Their father branded the police “murderers” after being told his son was dead.
Mr Sycamore had made an attempt to take his life 17 years previously and had been prescribed anti-depressants, the inquest heard.
He also told an ex-girlfriend shortly before his death that he wanted to die.
Pub landlord Peter Lee said Mr Sycamore, his best friend, left a voicemail message on his phone at 2.35pm on the day of his death saying he intended to take his own life.