A man shot dead by police is suspected of murdering a neighbour who went to the aid of a child thought to be in danger, a coroner’s court has heard.
Thames Valley Police found the body of highways officer Richard James Woodcock, 38, when they forced their way into a property at Denmead, in Two Mile Ash, Milton Keynes, Buckinghamshire, after being called to an ongoing disturbance at about 9.40am on June 26.
Kelvin Odichukumma Igweani, 24, was pronounced dead at the scene after a police officer fired four shots, Milton Keynes Coroner’s Court was told.
The Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) is investigating the circumstances surrounding the shooting.
The police watchdog said officers found a two-year-old child with serious injuries who remains in a life-threatening condition in hospital.
The cause of these injuries remains unexplained, the IOPC said, adding that they are working with police to establish the circumstances.
Inquests into the deaths of Mr Woodcock and Mr Igweani were opened at two separate hearings on Friday.
Speaking at the opening of the inquest into Mr Woodcock’s death, Detective Chief Inspector Stuart Blaik from Thames Valley Police major crime unit, said Mr Igweani was suspected of murdering Mr Woodcock.
He said police received a 999 call reporting an ongoing disturbance at Two Mile Ash at about 9.40am, adding: “Neighbours had reported hearing a female screaming and shouting for help.
“A female and a young child had managed to flee the address prior to police arrival.
“However, Richard Woodcock, from a neighbouring property, had gone to the address to help save a young boy, as it was believed he was still in the property, and at risk of significant harm,” he told the court.
Mr Blaik said police were unable to get in as the door was locked, but that entry was gained by firearms officers who responded to the incident in an unarmed capacity to provide urgent support.
“Having had to force entry to the address, the officers immediately saw a deceased male, who has now been identified as Richard Woodcock, on the floor.
“And they were also aware of a distressed young child within the address,” he said.
Mr Blaik said another man, now known to be Mr Igweani, “immediately became aggressive” towards the officers.
“A Taser was discharged, but this was ineffective, and Kelvin Igweani barricaded himself within the main bedroom,” he said.
The court heard armed officers then tried to gain entry to that room.
“A child could be heard crying, along with the sounds of an ongoing assault. Entry was gained to the bedroom, at which point a police firearm was discharged,” he said.
Mr Blaik said police officers and ambulance staff gave first aid, but said Mr Igweani was declared dead at 10.33am.
“Kelvin Igweani is suspected of the murder of Richard Woodcock and the serious assault of the young male child within the address,” he told the court.
Mr Blaik confirmed a post-mortem examination had taken place at Milton Keynes University Hospital and the medical cause of death for Mr Woodcock was given as traumatic head injuries.
Coroner Tom Osborne adjourned the inquest to November 18, when he hopes to set a date for the full inquest.
Mr Osborne said he knew that Mr Woodcock was “a very popular man” within Milton Keynes Council.
In a statement, Milton Keynes Council, said: “Richard was a much valued member of our team. Our thoughts are with Richard’s family and loved ones, and with his colleagues who will miss him greatly.”
Speaking at the opening of the inquest into Mr Igweani’s death, David Bannister from the Independent Office for Police Conduct (IOPC) said the IOPC was aware that Thames Valley Police received a 999 call concerning a domestic incident.
He told the hearing that the IOPC has viewed body-worn video evidence and seen that the armed officers forced entry into the property, and immediately came across a dead man.
“They were then confronted by Mr Kelvin Igweani and Taser was discharged. This Taser discharge was ineffective.
“Mr Igweani moved to another room in the address and closed the door. The officers identified that Mr Igweani was in the room with a young child.
“The officers heard noises from the room, and believed that Mr Igweani was harming the child.
“The officers forced entry into the room. As officers gained entry into this room, Mr Igweani moved towards them, and one officer fired four shots.
“Taser was also discharged. Medical attention was provided to Mr Igweani, but this was unsuccessful, and he was pronounced dead at 10.33am,” he said.
Mr Bannister confirmed the medical cause of death was given as gunshot wounds to the chest.
The coroner adjourned the inquest to November 17, when a pre-inquest review may take place.
A date was not set for the full inquest hearing.
IOPC regional director Graham Beesley said: “This was a tragic incident and our thoughts remain with the family and friends of all involved and everyone else affected.
“It is vital that whenever police use lethal force that this is carefully investigated.
“Our investigation, which is fully independent of police, will look at all available evidence to establish the circumstances that led to this situation.
“Our investigators went to the residence on Saturday and Sunday to oversee forensic examination of the scene, and attended the police post incident procedures, during which officers provided their initial witness accounts.
“We will continue to collect evidence and review footage of this incident and forensic analysis of the scene, which will inform the scope of our investigation.”