A POLICE officer might not have shot dead an unarmed man in Culcheth if senior commanders had competently organised a firearms deployment, a public inquiry has found.

Dad-of-two Anthony Grainger was gunned down and killed by police as he sat behind the wheel of a stolen Audi on a car park on Jackson Avenue.

The 36-year-old, from Bolton, was shot with a Heckler and Kock MP5 submachine gun by a Greater Manchester Police officer referred to in court as Q9.

During 15 weeks of evidence in 2017, Q9 told Liverpool Crown Court from behind a screen that he believed Mr Grainger had reached down as if to grab a firearm.

But the inquiry heard that no firearms were found on Mr Grainger or in the stationary vehicle after his death in the early evening of Saturday, March 3 2012.

Warrington Guardian:

Grainger and one of his two passengers, David Totton, had for some weeks been the subject of a GMP investigation – Operation Shire – which was investigating their suspected involvement in commercial robberies.

In his report, inquiry chairman judge Thomas Teague concluded: “Q9 shot Mr Grainger in the honestly held belief that he was reaching for a firearm with the intention of discharging it at Q9's colleagues.

“That belief was, however, incorrect.

“When Mr Grainger disobeyed Q9's instruction to show his hands, he was probably reaching for the driver's door handle in order to get out of the Audi.

“Had GMP's firearms commanders adopted disruption as a tactical option, as they should have done, they would have avoided the risks occasioned by decisive intervention.

“Had they planned, briefed and conducted the deployment competently, Q9 would have been less likely to misinterpret Mr Grainger's actions and might not have shot him.”

Warrington Guardian:

Judge Thomas Teague

Anthony Grainger’s family believe that the judge’s findings amounted to their loved one having been unlawfully killed.

In a statement, the family said: “This inquiry has concluded that Anthony died as a result of a calamitous combination of errors and blunders by GMP.

“In finding that the police operation failed to satisfy Article 2 of the European Convention on Human Rights, the chairman effectively rules that Anthony was unlawfully killed by GMP.

“The damning report catalogues dishonesty and corruption at the highest level of GMP.

“Senior officers lied to the inquiry – they provided evidence intended to mislead and to obscure the truth, and have reconstructed evidence to deflect personal criticism.

“They have displayed a cavalier approach to public safety.

“The failings extend to the very top of GMP, with two assistant chief constables criticised for giving misleading evidence.

“The chairman describes serious inaccuracies in threat assessments, seriously misleading briefings of firearms officers, a fundamentally flawed tactical approach and planning of the operation that was incompetent and dangerous."

Warrington Guardian:

The family has also referred the case to the Crown Prosecution Service and has called for charges to be brought against a number of senior police officers.

Their statement added: “Anthony died because of these failings by GMP – Anthony’s family have referred the matter today to the CPS, inviting criminal proceedings against at least four senior police officers.

“The IOPC will also be invited to investigate various officers with a view to disciplinary proceedings.

“Most importantly, the family will ask the CPS to consider bringing proceedings as a result of Anthony’s unlawful killing by GMP.

“Anthony’s family call for urgent root and branch reforms of GMP generally, and to their firearms unit in particular to avoid the public being put at risk.”

Anthony Grainger's partner Gail Hadfield-Grainger says that GMP’s chief constable has still not apologised to her.

Speaking outside court, she said: "It has taken seven years but some justice has been done today for Anthony.

"This devastating report shows that Anthony's death was caused by a litany of catastrophic failures by Greater Manchester Police in 2012 – it could and should have been prevented.

"It also exposes that even now in 2019 Greater Manchester Police is unfit to control firearms operations.

“This is a scandal, which places other lives at risk.

“I have waited seven years for an apology from the chief constable - I am still waiting.

"The Home Secretary set up this inquiry. and this shocking report demands his immediate attention.

“He needs to explain to the public what he is going to do to make it safe for armed police to be deployed on the streets of Manchester.

“I ask the Home Secretary to sit down with me and other bereaved families to see what can be done to save lives.”

GMP says it will ‘consider the chairman’s recommendations’ and investigate whether safety measures during firearms investigations can be improved.

A spokesman said: “We fully understand the heart-breaking effect that Anthony Grainger’s death has had on his family and loved ones – we also fully understand that the public inquiry will have been very difficult for them.

“On behalf of Greater Manchester Police, we offer our condolences to Anthony Grainger’s family and to his loved ones.

“We have received the public inquiry report into the death of Anthony Grainger and we are considering the findings of the chairman.

“In his report, the chairman has made a number of findings which are critical of GMP.

“The criticisms are wide-ranging and include criticisms of aspects of the planning and preparation of the firearms operation during which Anthony Grainger lost his life.

“The force, our commanders and our officers do not set out on any policing operation with the intention of firearms being discharged.

“This case was no different and the safety of the public, the subjects of police operations and our officers is, and remains, our absolute priority.

“That being said, we undertake to consider each and every one of the chairman’s findings and criticisms with the utmost care, attention and reflection.

“It is what the public would expect GMP to do in circumstances where criticisms have been made of the planning and preparation of a police operation in which a young man lost his life – it is what GMP will do.”

GMP said that it had already made a number of changes following Anthony Grainger’s death.

The spokesman added: “Working alongside our regional and national partners, we will consider all of the chairman’s recommendations to assess what more can be done now and in the future to further improve the safety of police firearms operations.

“Many changes have already been made locally, regionally and nationally since the death of Anthony Grainger in 2012 – most recently following an independent review conducted by the College of Policing.

“We will continue to strive to maximise the safety of all policing operations.”