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Inquest into death of Steven Colwell opens in Belfast

Steven Colwell (23) died after he was shot at a police checkpoint in Ballynahinch

THE inquest into the death of a Belfast man shot dead by police during at a checkpoint in Co Down was opened yesterday.

Steven Colwell (23) died in April 2006 after police fired on the BMW which failed to stop at a checkpoint in Ballynahinch.

Around 100 witnesses are expected to give evidence at the inquest, which is due to last up to six weeks.

Belfast Coroners Court yesterday heard that the hearing would be examining the wider circumstances of Mr Colwell's death including how the police operation was planned and supervised and the fitness of the officer to have a fire-arm.

Mr Colwell had been driving a stolen silver BMW when he approached a police checkpoint in Ballynahinch. When an officer approached the vehicle, it was claimed, Mr Colwell attempted to drive away but was blocked by other cars.

The officer (known as Officer O) claimed the car was driven straight towards him when he fired two shots.

Mr Colwell's death was originally investigated by the Police Ombudsman, who found the actions of the officer who shot Mr Colwell were "critically flawed".

Mr Colwell's brother Gary yesterday told the court of the family's devastation since his death.

"It's been a hard battle. It's been really hard," he said.

He also described how his brother has suffered a severe head injury as a child, after he was hit on the head with a brick, which led to his speech being affected and he was moved to a special school.

Mr Colwell also said his brother later started "mixing with the wrong type" and "keeping bad company".

The inquest continues.

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