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Mark Duggan inquest: Gang lieutenant or respected, popular father? A divided portrait

16:23 08 January 2014

Mark Duggan

Mark Duggan

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Jurors were presented with two very different portraits of Mark Duggan during the inquest. But where does the truth lie?

Mark DugganMark Duggan

During an emotional day in the Royal Courts Of Justice, the statement of Mark Duggan’s mother Pamela revealed her son was a family man - happy-go-lucky and funny, holding down a job in a clothes shop and looking after his girlfriend and children.

But the Met Police offered jurors a very different Mark Duggan, one intimately involved in the feared Tottenham Man Dem gang, “armed criminality” and supplying drugs.

Mr Duggan’s story starts like many others, born to Pamela and Bruno in September 1981, not long after the couple moved into the flat on the Broadwater Farm Estate they would call home for 26 years.

She says she was “blessed” with Mark, their first child, and her sister Carole helped deliver him in hospital. Bruno was working nights at the time.

She describes him as a “perfect and beautiful” baby who grew into a “quiet, shy, very tactile” boy who “loved the comfort of his own home”. He clung to Pamela so often she used to call him her “handbag”.

Things changed when he left Broadwater Farm primary school for secondary school, which he disliked. He slipped back in his lessons and his behaviour began to deteriorate.

His favourite subject was art and he joined the school football team and loved it, but hung up his boots after suffering a split lip when he challenged for a ball.

He spent all of his holidays with his aunt Carole, who had moved back to Manchester some years earlier, and moved there himself in 1994 to make something of himself and finish school.

At 17 he returned to London, Pamela noting he had grown into a well-balanced, quietly-spoken and easy-going young man with a sense of humour; caring and considerate, happy-go-lucky and mischevious.

He had a way with the ladies, who flocked around him, had “the most beautiful smile” that would melt girls’ hearts.

He had nine siblings but was closest to Marlon, his youngest brother. He was “a wonderful father” to his children with Semone Wilson, his girlfriend since they were both 15. When he died the oldest was 12, the youngest just three. They were staying with Carole in Manchester on the day he was killed.

Pamela’s statement adds: “Mark may not have been an angel, but I do not believe he should have died the way he did. If he was involved in wrongdoing, he should have been brought to justice and punished. He should not have been shot and killed.”

Judge Cutler, too, when summing up the evidence, said Mr Duggan was “clearly a respected man, respected by many, a friend of many”.

But, he added: “It may be that much of what we have learnt about him in the weeks leading up to his death shows a lifestyle, and a criminality, of which [his mother] was totally unaware.”

Det Ch Insp Michael Foote, the senior investigating officer for Operation Dibri, said Mr Duggan “was very, very lightly convicted”; cautioned for a public order offence, convicted and fined £30 for possession of cannabis in 2000 and fined £250 in 2007 for receiving stolen goods. He had never been sent to prison or even given a community sentence.

But police maintained he had a history of “suspected criminality” too; he had shot someone in a nightclub in January 2011, fired shots in a car park the following month, and was suspected of having drugs in his home in June. Police thought he was intent on acquiring a gun.

Going back further, Mr Duggan was arrested and interviewed over the murder of Gavin Smith, who was stabbed twice in Lordship Recreation Ground, next to the Broadwater Farm Estate, in October 2003.

In May 2006 he was arrested in relation to the shooting of a Turkish man in a repair garage in Tottenham. The victim lost one of his kidneys as a result. Mr Duggan was not identified by witnesses but some of his “known associates” were convicted.

He was the passenger in a car in which a live bullet was found, and in March 2008 he was driving in “a convoy” of five cars in Chiswick when stopped by armed officers. A loaded gun was found wrapped in a sock in the waistband of another man in the convoy.

Mr Duggan was never charged or prosecuted in any of these cases, the inquest heard.

One expression used by the police was: “He had a number of serious arrests but nothing could be proved at all.”

Indeed, the intelligence was of such poor quality that, between June 2010 and August 2011, Det Ch Insp Foote admitted: “I had no information on which I could have arrested Mark Duggan.”

But police presented intelligence to the courts, gathered in the months before the operation in 2011, citing Mr Duggan as “a long-standing senior member of the TMD”, one of the most violent gangs in Europe.

He was one of just six people placed under surveillance, police believing him to be a key member of the Tottenham Man Dem.

It continued: “There is a wealth of historic and current reliable intelligence suggesting that Duggan has ready access to firearms. He is actively involved in armed criminality and the supply of controlled drugs.”

One piece of “untested” low-grade intelligence, from July 19, suggested he had possession of a Beretta handgun, kept at his girlfriend’s address.

Police believed he was a danger, obtained search warrants and planned - but aborted - a similar operation aimed at catching him collecting a gun.

Judge Cutler left these remarks with jurors to mull over: “The police... had real concerns about Mark Duggan’s criminal behaviour. Indeed, you may conclude that the police were correct, especially if you decide that Mark Duggan did indeed receive the gun from Kevin Hutchinson-Foster and was taking it to Broadwater Farm where it may have been used by somebody on somebody.

“On the other hand, you must be careful before you come to any condemnation of Mark Duggan’s character. Of course, I have emphasised already that no one is on trial here, least of all Mark Duggan.

“Indeed, it may be that you do not need to come to conclusions or any final conclusions about it. But how important is the truth about his criminal character?

“Was he in fact someone who was sliding into criminal ways or was he a confirmed serious criminal?”

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