Cops found not at fault in Cairns siege

A coroner has cleared police of blame over the death of a depressed alcoholic during a siege in north Queensland.

Peter Alan Sutcliffe, 39, took his own life while he was barricaded inside a shed during a stand-off with police in Cairns on January 25, 2011.

A two-day coronial inquest in Cairns heard police were called to Mr Sutcliffe’s ex-partner’s house after he became aggressive towards her and her child.

He was armed with a knife and told officers he had booby trapped the area and also had a shotgun.

Despite making several attempts to talk to him, he was later found dead.

On Tuesday, Coroner Terry Ryan concluded the police response was appropriate and proportionate.

Ruling that Mr Sutcliffe took his own life, the coroner wrote in his report that police “did their best to resolve a volatile situation peacefully”.

Mr Sutcliffe’s ex-partner told triple-zero she had locked herself and her child in a bedroom around 9pm (AEST) and could hear Mr Sutcliffe sharpening a knife.

When police arrived minutes later he barricaded himself inside a shed.

Officers tried numerous times to talk to Mr Sutcliffe, but, after initially telling police to go away, he didn’t respond.

Noises could be heard from the shed until about 11pm.

It was about this time the Special Emergency Response Team surrounded the building and officers again tried to engage with Mr Sutcliffe.

A light was shone into the shed about 11.30pm, revealing Mr Sutcliffe’s body.

The coroner’s findings revealed the father-of-three had battled alcoholism and depression.

Mr Sutcliffe was also involved in another siege in Cairns three years earlier in which he told police he’d doused himself in petrol.

He was later charged and jailed for 106 days.

Mr Ryan didn’t make any recommendations, but said night vision goggles used by officers may have made it difficult for them to see Mr Sutcliffe.

The equipment has since been replaced.

* Readers seeking support and information about suicide prevention can contact Lifeline on 13 11 14 or Suicide Call Back Service 1300 659 467.

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