by Gail Hadfield-Grainger (United Families and Friends Campaign, Legal Officer)
Eight years ago, I lost the love of my life when he was shot and killed by the police in what is alleged to be a highly pre-planned operation. I just want to take the opportunity to share the struggles and the painstaking process which I, and other families, have to go through after the police kill someone you love so dearly.
It starts the moment you are told. In the ordinary world in which we think we live, the natural route would be to phone the police and believe that they will do everything in their power to catch the person that did it…. But, in this situation, that isn’t the case. You have just been given the news that doesn’t sink in, it doesn’t feel real – the police killed him. So who do you ring? What do you do? How do you tell the kids?.
At that point, you sit in a daze, a million things in your head that do not make sense, questions like “what was he doing?”, “How could he have possibly been in a situation where the police had a gun and shot him?”. The newspapers start printing about a person the police killed, as though Anthony was one of the Kray twins or some monster – not the Anthony I know, or anyone else who knew him. It must be a mistake. Over the next few years, the struggles get harder. Your emotions take over, you do what you can to keep normality at home to protect your children and your own sanity but at every step of the process, nothing is ever what you would expect in a fair, just, and transparent investigation.
I soon found out, by reading every single document available to me and cross-referencing, that on the night he was killed there were 4 cars, each had 4 Armed Officers in. Each officer had a Heckler and Koch Machine gun and a self-loading pistol called a Glock, each with 30 rounds of ammunition. Some officers had CS Gas canisters, a shotgun, and tasers with extra cartridges. All this for a kind, loving man, a dad who worked with cars? You cannot get the vision from your mind- and even now, when I see an armed officer, I envision what must have happened in that dark carpark that night and the panic attacks set in.
I would find myself sitting in the wardrobe, wearing his clothes because the smell of him was lingering around, I’d close my eyes and pray that he would walk through the door. But he never did. The realisation starts to sink in. This is real, the police really do kill people, I can’t believe I have been so ignorant to it in the past.
You are led to believe that the IOPC is independent of the police, but once you speak to the team investigating the death, it soon becomes clear that a high number of these are actually ex-police officers. They do not have the power to compel an officer to make an independent statement, which is the least that you would expect because this is not a petty theft – it is potentially murder or manslaughter.
You find out that all 16 armed officers sat in a room together, 9 days later, and made their ‘independent account from memory’ with another officer guiding them on what to say via a flip-chart. But this only came to light because of the exact same mistakes they all made, the car registration was written down wrong and street names all spelled wrong. This is not how I imagined a serious investigation into the death of a person by the police would be carried out. This wholly undermines the independence and integrity of any account they subsequently provide and would not be allowed if they were anything but police officers.
The 4 cars of armed officers swooped on Anthony’s Car that Night, it took less than 2 seconds before ‘Q9’ fired his weapon from the back seat of a car, which delivered the fatal shot into Anthony’s left lung, through the pulmonary trunk of the heart and into the right lung but no ambulance was called. I believe that there should have been an ambulance on standby given the ‘highly pre-planned’ element of the operation. It later transpired that it wasn’t as ‘highly pre-planned’ as the police made out. In fact, the planning of the operation did not even consider any LESS LETHAL tactic than an armed strike. The disclosure that the police ALLOW you to have is redacted, page after page, we have to make a case with a percentage of the information missing, but available to the police, the IOPC and every other interested party except you! Working with pages of information that the police say you are not entitled to see, but they can – how is that a fair trial?
Whilst it is still early stages, families are means-tested to see if they are entitled to breadcrumbs of funding to find out why their loved one isn’t here anymore, then your learn that ALL other parties, such as the one who fired and killed Anthony, the Chief Constable and Greater Manchester Police as a whole, the IOPC, and the National Crime agency are all entitled to the best legal teams that money can buy, regardless of their income or situation. How can this be fair? I’ve met other families along that way that have sold their home, emptied children’s savings accounts and even got into serious debt through lending money to pay for their legal representation, but I do not believe any family can raise the money needed to cover years and years of this whole process. But all the officers are represented from day one!
I am on 8 years now and still, not one single officer has been held to account in any sense of the word. I realised quite quickly that some struggles were going to hinder me, I started to study law, this way I could take days off when needed to so I could attend the hearings but later down the line, I realised I may have to represent myself in the fight to find out why Anthony was killed.
The worst part of this whole process is not only going up against trained officials, experienced lawyers, and 100+ police officers all working together – it is doing everything you can against ALL of these people, as a single-family member whilst you’re trying to hold your own life together. Eight years of random dates to attend court, delay after delay. It is almost impossible to hold down a job, or even start the grieving process – how can you grieve over something you can’t understand?
Our public inquiry found that officers lied, fabricated documents to exaggerate the threat level. The police also used a criminal past from a different person and told the court that they believed that Anthony had previous criminal convictions, that were proved in the inquiry to be completely false – Anthony died because of serious systemic failures in the operation from the very start and these failures continued after he died. This includes the deleting of vital emails that were related to the case, which showed some of the armed officers that night did not hold a valid Firearms Licence due to failing the course.
Yet, here I am fighting for the government recommendations to be implemented – but who am I except a grieving woman and mother who just wants answers and justice for the death of the man I love. This should not be left to the families – families who have been through enough! This system needs to change. Officers need to be held to account by the law when they break the law!
The Chair of the Public Inquiry, HHJ Teague, described in the report “that Anthony Grainger’s untimely death was not the consequence of one wrong decision but of many. As often happens, it took a combination of errors and blunders to produce so calamitous an outcome – an outcome for which I have concluded that Greater Manchester Police is to blame”.