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Police had no plan on night robber was shot, inquest told

Ali El Hafiane’s mother, Mary, outside court.THE police shooting of a teenager during an armed robbery was the culmination of a police operation with ”no real planning and no real communication”, the inquest into his death has heard.
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Ali El Hafiane, 19, was fatally shot in the chest by police on November 22, 2010, while taking part in an armed robbery at the High Flyer Hotel in Condell Park.

The inquest into his death at Parramatta Local Court heard yesterday that while El Hafiane’s accomplice, Hassan Musleh, was carrying a machete, El Hafiane was unarmed.

It was also revealed the shooting followed an ongoing investigation in which the different police units involved failed to communicate properly or to plan for the likelihood of a dangerous armed robbery taking place.

In her opening address, counsel assisting the inquest, Kristina Stern, SC, said the two men had been under surveillance for a number of days before the shooting as part of Strikeforce Slim, an operation started three months earlier targeting armed robberies in the Bankstown area.

The surveillance squad was brought in to assist but Ms Stern said there was little communication between its officers and the robbery and serious crime squad officers leading the operation.

”The surveillance officers were not aware that there was potentially an armed robbery that night or that the High Flyer [Hotel] was potentially a target,” Ms Stern said.

”Even at the point where police from the robbery squad pulled up outside the hotel, they are referred to by surveillance officers as ‘unidentified males’.”

The inquest also heard that, despite the presence of a dedicated radio channel for communication, the members of the robberies and serious crime squad communicated with each other via mobile phone.

This created a number of issues, most importantly that just before the shooting a crucial call from one of the officers involved to another was missed.

Ms Stern said that when an officer from the robbery squad saw the two robbers enter the hotel he ran in after them, ”seemingly without communicating his intention” to any other officer, including a surveillance officer already in the hotel.

The officer who ran into the hotel said he believed one of the robbers was armed. But rather than withdrawing to secure the area he drew his weapon and ”charged towards them”.

Hearing a loud ”bang” which he believed to be a gunshot, he immediately fired his weapon.

At the same time, another officer, unaware of the presence of the first, came towards El Hafiane and his accomplice from the direction in which they were trying to escape.

Wrongly believing, on the basis of surveillance on previous nights, that both robbers had firearms, the second officer fired at El Hafiane, later telling investigators, ”I thought I was going to die”.

Ms Stern said it was most likely this was the fatal shot, hitting El Hafiane in the chest in a downward direction and exiting through his back. He died at the scene.

The inquest before the deputy coroner Hugh Dillon continues.

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