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A BARRISTER told a taxi driver “I’m going to die”, hours before he was killed by police after blasting a shotgun through a window of his home.
Divorce specialist Mark Saunders, 32, sparked a five-hour armed siege as dozens of officers surrounded his £2.2 million home in Markham Square, Chelsea, on May 6, 2008.
He died from injuries to his head and chest after being hit by a volley of at least five shots fired by marksmen positioned in the street and surrounding buildings.
Westminster Coroner’s Court heard yesterday that Saunders battled alcohol addiction for several years and had been drinking before the stand-off. His widow, Elizabeth, said he had not drunk alcohol since March, but he had attended Alcoholics Anonymous and sought help from his GP.
The barrister, who had taken cocaine over the previous 48 hours and was on antidepressants, shocked friends and colleagues with a series of bizarre phone calls and messages.
Cab driver David Hay said Saunders made several strange phone calls as he drove him back from Cromwell Road, west London, to his home. In one of them, which investigators later found was to a friend at a firm of solicitors, he left a message saying “ha, ha” a total of 22 times.
Describing how he handed the barrister his change, Hay said: “He looked straight at me, and just said ‘I’m going to die’.”
Metropolitan Police officers raced to the scene when people dialled 999 to report shots had been fired.
One neighbour, who lived in nearby Bywater Street, said he fired a shotgun through her daughter’s bedroom window.
Saunders’ friend and fellow barrister, Michael Bradley, heard the first shot fired as the two men spoke on the telephone at about 4.40pm, 10 minutes after the taxi dropped him off.
Ivor Treherne, senior clerk at Saunders’ legal chambers, Queen Elizabeth Buildings, in London’s Temple, heard another shot fired as they spoke minutes later.
Treherne told investigators: “He said ‘I’ve got my gun out and I’ve already shot it’. He said ‘Listen’, and he fired the gun. I said ‘Stop being stupid, put the gun down’.
“He said ‘It’s too late, I’ve already fired the gun and the police are here already’.”
Saunders sent three texts to friend Alex Booth as the siege unfolded. One read: “This is the end, my only friend, the end. X”
Booth said the message was from the song The End by The Doors, used in the opening sequence of the movie, Apocalypse Now.
All of the officers have said they fired in self-defence or to protect others and the Crown Prosecution Service said none of them will be prosecuted.
Saunders’ wife rushed home to find a cordon around Markham Square.
The inquest heard Saunders repeatedly asked police negotiators if he could speak to his wife.
Ms Saunders said she did not fear for her safety and suggested she could have defused the siege, but was not allowed speak to him.
The inquest, expected to last up to three weeks, was adjourned until today.
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