The Met Police was ‘delusional, chaotic and unprofessional’ when a force marksman shot dead a father-of-two to foil a prison breakout plot – but the unarmed man was lawfully killed, an inquiry has found.
Jermaine Baker was fatally shot at close range by police as he sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen Audi A6 near Wood Green Crown Court in north London in December 2015.
Officers suspected he was one of three men waiting to try and break inmate Izzet Eren, a member of notoriously violent gang, the Tottenham Turks, out of a prison van.
Mr Baker, from Tottenham, was unarmed at the time he was shot by a counter-terrorism specialist firearms officer (CTSFO) – known only as W80 – who told the inquiry he thought the 28-year-old was reaching for a weapon. An imitation firearm was later found in the rear of the Audi.
Inquiry chairman His Honour Clement Goldstone QC concluded that, while Mr Baker was lawfully killed, there were police failings at almost every stage of the operation, which would ‘serve as a loud wake-up call’ to the next Metropolitan Police Commissioner, following the resignation of Dame Cressida Dick.
He said police chiefs were ‘fixated’ and ‘obsessive’ with their mission to stop the release of Eren and crack down on the Tottenham Turks that they couldn’t see the flaws in their approach.
Mr Goldstone suggested the operation ‘would have little effect on disrupting the activity of the Tottenham Turks or on achieving sustained public protection’.
He added: ‘The idea that this operation could succeed in ridding the streets of North London of lethal firearms was delusional – in reality, one firearm was the best the MPS could hope to recover.’
Bizarre decisions included an insistence not to consult Serco, the firm running the prisoner van, of the operation plans due to fears of corruption within the company, which Mr Goldstone described as ‘unspecified, undocumented and unsubstantiated.’
Had the force included them in planning, officers could have controlled the van in which Eren was placed, who else was placed in that van and the route it took from the prison to the court, he added.
Jermaine Baker was fatally shot at close range as he sat in the front passenger seat of a stolen Audi A6 near Wood Green Crown Court in north London in December 2015 by police who suspected he and other conspirators were about to free a dangerous prisoner from a custody van
Mr Baker was fatally shot by an officer during a Metropolitan Police operation which thwarted a plot to snatch Izzet Eren (above) and his co-defendant in December 2015
Izzet Eren: The Turkish gangster police said Jermaine Baker was trying to break out of prison
Officers suspected Mr Baker was one of three men waiting to try and break inmate Izzet Eren, a member of notoriously violent gang, the Tottenham Boys, out of a prison van.
Eren – a Turkish gangster – was jailed for 21 years earlier in 2015 after being caught carrying a loaded pistol and a machine gun in north London while allegedly on his way to carry out a shooting.
He was described by police as ‘a senior member of a Turkish crime group’, who had reportedly returned to the UK in breach of a deportation order having been sentenced for drug trafficking offences.
His gang, the Tottenham Turks, had a long-running feud with the rival Hackney Turks, which resulted in multiple shootings, both in London and in Turkey, dating to 2009.
Eren, now 39, was transferred to a jail in his homeland in August 2019, but absconded from that prison a month later, before being busted by police in Moldova in May this year.
Commander Fiona Mallon, Specialist Crime, said: ‘I thank the Moldovan authorities, the National Crime Agency and the Crown Prosecution Service for their assistance in achieving this significant outcome.
‘The Metropolitan Police Serious Crime Manhunt team works around the clock to track down the criminals ‘most wanted’ by the Met. In this case, a hugely complex investigation was launched to establish Eren’s whereabouts, with a wide range of investigative and sensitive intelligence opportunities exploited.
‘This arrest sends a clear message to all those who commit serious crime in London: if you run, we will locate you and you will be brought to justice.’
Reporting on the shooting itself, Mr Goldstone said: ‘I conclude that, when W80 shot Mr Baker, he held an honest and genuine belief that Mr Baker was moving in order to reach for the firearm.
‘As such, W80 perceived that Mr Baker posed a lethal threat… I draw the conclusion, on the balance of probabilities, that the perceived threat from the actions and movement of Mr Baker was such that W80 honestly believed that it was reasonably necessary for him to shoot at Mr Baker.’
Mr Baker’s mother, Margaret Smith, said her son was ‘no angel’, but that he ‘should have gone to prison’ rather than be fatally shot, and called on the inquiry chairman to consider whether her son being black could have been a factor in him being killed.
But Mr Goldstone said he ‘found no evidence to support a finding that race played any part in Mr Baker’s death’.
He also said that W80’s ‘overall credibility’ as a witness ‘remained largely intact’.
The inquiry chairman highlighted a number of failures, including that public safety should have been – but was not – the primary objective of the operation, that intelligence that the conspirators had only been able to source an imitation firearm was not passed on to W80 and others, and the ‘delusional’ idea that the operation would succeed in ridding the streets of north London of lethal firearms.
The inquiry heard that Mr Baker may have been asleep at the time he was shot, and may have misunderstood contradictory instructions shouted by armed officers who challenged the men in the Audi.
A police bug in the car captured a wall of noise with some officers telling the group to raise their hands, while W80 said he had instructed Mr Baker to put his hands on the dashboard.
No live firearm was found in the car in which Mr Baker was a front seat passenger, but a replica Uzi was discovered in the back of the car.
Officers had intelligence that the group had been unable to obtain a real gun, but this information was not passed on to the firearms team who confronted the men.
W80 told the inquiry he was convinced that they would be armed and would fight their way out rather than surrender when challenged by armed police.
The report said: ‘The combined effect of the evidence of Detective Inspector Robert Murray, Detective Chief Inspector Neil Williams and Detective Superintendent Craig Turner reveals a determination – bordering at times on the obsessive – to achieve a successful outcome to Operation Ankaa and with it, if not the demise of the Tottenham Turks, then certainly their emasculation.
‘Whilst this may have been a laudable objective, it should not have been something that was allowed to go ahead at virtually any cost and to the exclusion of proper and meaningful risk assessments and safety considerations as well as compliance with protocols.
‘There can be no doubt that sustained public protection was the prime objective of this operation; the safety of the public was not – and it should have been.’
The most that the officers could have hoped for on the day was the arrest of some ‘small fry’ and the seizure of one gun, the inquiry found.
‘The available intelligence supported the likelihood of a failure in achieving sustained public protection save for the ‘small fry’ who were to be arrested at the scene,’ the report said.
‘The idea that this operation could succeed in ridding the streets of North London of lethal firearms was delusional – realistically one live firearm was the best the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS) could hope to recover.
‘Unfortunately, those who decided that the operation should run were unable, because of their fixation on their desire to solve the Tottenham Turks problem at a stroke, to appreciate the flaw in their approach.’
The inquiry found a series of technical failures in the planning and execution of the armed operation.
It said that officers had failed to consider any possible outcome other than an armed stop, and had not properly assessed the risk posed by Eren’s cousin Ozcan Eren, who was behind the escape plot.
They also failed to engage with the Prison Service about Eren’s escape risk or tell prison van staff of the planned jail break.
The chairman found that failures in the planning and execution of the armed operation should act as a ‘loud wake-up call’ to the next Metropolitan Police commissioner, who is due to be appointed this summer.
He said: ‘I cannot help but believe and observe that if Mr Baker had not been fatally shot, none of the shortcomings in planning and execution which this Inquiry has exposed would have come to light and the operation would have been hailed as an outstanding success by and for the Metropolitan Police Service (MPS).
‘If it achieves little else, therefore, this Inquiry should serve as a loud wake-up call to a newly appointed Commissioner.’
Jermaine Baker, 28, was among a group of men trying to free two inmates from a prison van near Wood Green Crown Court in north London in December 2015
Officers at the scene in Bracknell Close, Wood Green north London in 2015 after Jermaine Baker died after being shot during an ‘intelligence led’ police operation
Mr Goldstone said in a foreword to the report that previous Met boss Dame Cressida Dick had acknowledged that ‘not everyone has confidence in us to provide a good service when they need us’.
He said: ‘Those within the corridors of power in the MPS cannot expect any increase in that level of public confidence, without a willingness to accept and act upon justified criticism.’
In his conclusions, he added: ‘It is clear that little if any thought was given to the tactic of contain and call out.
‘This brings into focus the question of why there was no serious – if indeed any – consideration given to it.
‘Whatever the higher echelons of the MPS may believe, there is, in my view, a widely held opinion within the MPS that, in an urban environment, the option of contain and call out is unlikely to be practical and can therefore be discounted at an early stage. The way one describes that opinion is less important than its existence.
‘The CTSFOs were deployed to the Audi mission vehicle with a working strategy that increased rather than minimised risk; they did so without even the knowledge of how many individuals were in the Audi mission vehicle and they had no plans for achieving sight into it and for communication with the subjects.
‘This led to an extraction that was somewhat chaotic and unprofessional.’
The inquiry found that failures by Detective Chief Inspector Neil Williams, who was tactical firearms commander on the day, did not amount to gross negligence and did not cause Mr Baker’s death.
Lawyers for Mr Baker’s family had highlighted failures in handling of intelligence and not using available surveillance tools to reduce the risks of an armed interception.
The inquiry found that Mr Williams did not know where Ozcan Eren was in the early hours of the operation and whether he would be involved in the break-out.
The officer also did not think through the consequences of potentially corrupt prison guards altering the route on the day, it found.
Mr Goldstone said it was ‘astonishing’ that this was not considered.
Wormwood Scrubs, where Izzet Eren, a member of notoriously violent gang, the Tottenham Turks, was being held
The terms of reference for the inquiry covered the planning of the armed operation, what information was available to those involved, how the operation was led and what the officers did on the ground, an what happened in the aftermath of the shooting.
The CPS decided not to bring criminal charges against W80 in 2017, and the officer is involved in a legal battle over whether he should face misconduct proceedings.
Mr Baker’s mother, Margaret Smith, told the inquiry that the value of her son’s life had been forgotten by police officers involved in the operation.
During evidence hearings last summer, she said her son had been written off by teachers at school and later struggled to find work after serving a prison sentence.
She said: ‘This could happen to anyone. Jermaine’s life was exceptional and unusual in the way that it ended, but the story of being written off as a child could be told by so many black boys and young men.’