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Author Topic: Mark Saunders' final hours: reconstruction  (Read 23 times)


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Mark Saunders' final hours: reconstruction
« on: July 23, 2017, 04:32:54 am »

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Sunday 23 July 2017

Mark Saunders' final hours: reconstruction
Mark Saunders was in a playful mood when he rang his wife Elizabeth on May 6, 2008, for what would prove to be the couple’s last conversation.
Mark Saunders' behaviour altered dramatically during the day
Mark Saunders' behaviour altered dramatically during the day Photo: PA
By John Bingham and Gordon Rayner11:00AM BST 21 Sep 2010
Having dropped off his mother-in-law at King’s Cross station in London he joked about how loquacious she had been, describing her conversation as “hilarious”. Nothing in his upbeat manner suggested anything was amiss.
Yet within hours, Mr Saunders, 32, had transformed into a violent maniac, firing shotguns from the window of the couple’s flat and sporadically sending messages which suggested he was preparing to die.
Whether it was necessary for the police to use lethal force to end the five-hour siege which followed is a matter for an inquest jury, but for the first time yesterday, the potential reasons for the barrister’s sudden and dramatic personality change began to emerge.
Despite managing to hold down a responsible, highly-paid career as a divorce barrister, Mr Saunders was privately battling alcoholism, depression and drug abuse, and as evidence of his final hours was laid out at Westminster Coroner’s Court yesterday it seemed that all three might have come together with catastrophic consequences on the day he was shot dead.
Elizabeth Saunders, 40, spoke with tears in her eyes as she told the jury of her love for her husband of two years; a “very sensitive and caring man” with “huge energy and love for life”.
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The day before his death, the couple had spent the evening booking hotels for a planned holiday in India. They rose the following morning at six, as they always did.
“We left the house at a quarter to seven and drove to where we both worked at Temple,” she recalled. “Mark had a client dinner that evening and was talking about dinner, and we were talking about our holiday that we had been organising the day before.
“Mark was happy and positive and we were looking forward to the various things that we were discussing.”
Mr Saunders, a graduate of Christ Church College, Oxford, picked up some papers he was going to work on at home in preparation for a case the following day, then drove home to pick up his wife’s mother, Margaret Clarke, who had been staying with the couple.
“Everything was normal,” said Mrs Saunders. “I had the car keys in my handbag, he came to collect the keys from me, shortly before nine o’clock.
“That was the last I physically saw him.”
Their final conversation was at 10.25am, when Mr Saunders phoned to say his mother-in-law had got her train.
“He said she was hilarious on the way to the station and wouldn’t stop talking,” Mrs Saunders recalled.
After he took Mrs Clarke to the station, Mr Saunders collected a picture he had left for framing, then at 11.15 he called a legal executive to discuss an upcoming case, when he “seemed very happy”.
The barrister exchanged several text messages with his wife between then and 1.30pm, but at around 2.30 Mrs Saunders could not raise her husband, and began to worry.
“He wasn’t picking up his telephone and wasn’t responding to texts, which experience told me meant that probably something had gone wrong,” she said.
Mrs Saunders disclosed that behind the couple’s outward contentment was a constant battle to prevent Mr Saunders sliding back into an alcohol habit that had blighted their marriage.
They had banned alcohol from their £2.2 million home in Chelsea, west London, but Mr Saunders would still periodically have “blips” when he would get drunk and stay out until 2am.
“He always knew that I was there at the end of the phone,” said Mrs Saunders. “After a couple of hours Mark would contact me…he needed to hear my voice and be reassured that it was OK…I would say 'It’s going to be all right darling, you just need to come home’.”
Alex Booth, his best friend, said in a statement that Mr Saunders would sometimes get so drunk that he would “injure himself or do things like losing his phone”. He had ended up in casualty on several occasions, and in drink he would be “in a fantasy world, he wouldn’t respond or engage with you”.
He had been cautioned for being drunk and disorderly in 2005, when he admitted his drinking was “out of control” and at one stage drank up to 120 units per week – the equivalent of four bottles of spirits.
Having briefly attended Alcoholics Anonymous, he sought psychiatric help for his self-destructive binges, which left him anxious and paranoid.
A psychiatrist who examined him in 2006 warned that if he did not “abstain completely from all mind-altering substances” he risked being killed in a pub fight. Doctors were also concerned he would commit suicide if a period of depression and an alcohol binge coincided. To stabilise his mood swings, he was prescribed the antidepressant Prozac.
Despite the warnings, Mr Saunders had started taking ****, the inquest heard.
His sudden downward spiral on May 6, 2008 appeared to begin at around 1.30pm, when he withdrew money from a cashpoint in Chelsea before travelling to Kensington in West London.
Analysis of his mobile phone showed both the location he had been in, and the fact that he phoned escort agencies, though no witnesses had come forward to verify whether he had met an escort.
He began leaving a series of bizarre phone messages, including one to a solicitors’ firm which consisted only of the words “ha ha” repeated 22 times, and a text sent at 4.02pm to Mr Booth, quoting a lyric from a song by The Doors saying: “This is the end my only friend, the end. X”
By now, according to witnesses, it was clear that Mr Saunders was either drunk or high on drugs.
David Hay, a taxi driver who picked him up at around 4.10pm on Cromwell Road, heard him leaving a phone message saying: “Make sure you’ve got 10 ha has” and said that when he dropped him off in Chelsea “he swung around and looked up the King’s Road and said 'Ha, ha, ha’”.
“At that point he turned back round and I gave him his change and he was looking straight at me and just said: 'I’m going to die’.
“When he looked at me his eyes were large and bulging. I could see the terror in his eyes. He looked like he was on drugs or something.”
Mr Saunders, a former Territorial Army volunteer, made his way home to Markham Square, where he quickly loaded two legally-held shotguns and began his shooting spree.
By 4.40pm he was on the phone to Michael Bradley, a barrister friend, and during the call he fired the first shot out of the kitchen window of the second-floor flat, smashing the bedroom window of a neighbouring property.
Moments later he phoned Ivor Treherne, the senior clerk at QEB Chambers, where he worked.
“It was obvious he had been drinking,” said Mr Treherne. “I reminded him he was supposed to be going out to supper, and to get sober.
“He said: 'I’ve got my gun 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’.”
As police marksmen rushed to the square, Mrs Saunders, alerted by Mr Treherne, hailed a taxi and went home to find the area cordoned off.
She spoke to an officer and was taken to a temporary operations base in a bank, where she answered questions about the weapons her husband held, ammunition and his problem with alcohol as she “apologised for the fact he had caused this trouble”.
She added that she felt “surplus to requirements” after being told to turn off her mobile phone so police could control communication with her husband.
At around 7pm Mr Saunders wrote his last note, on the side of a cardboard box, which said: “I love my wife dearly xxx,” and which he threw out of the window. He repeatedly asked police negotiators if he could speak to his wife, but his requests were turned down.
At 9.32pm, almost five hours after the first shot was fired, seven police officers opened fire, killing him with five bullets that hit him in the head and chest.
CS gas canisters were fired into the flat and police stormed in to find Mr Saunders beyond help.
Mrs Saunders said that, although she heard a “lot of commotion”, including shots and helicopters, she did not know her husband was dead until police told her at 10.30pm.
She found a blank text message from him when she switched her phone back on and told the inquest it was painful to know she did not call him back.
She said: “That would have been the only time in our relationship that he sent me a text message and he did not get an immediate call from me saying 'Darling, I am here’.
“That is very difficult for me, but there it is. I did not know he had called.”
The inquest continues.

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