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An inquest jury's heard that a bank robber shot dead by police took officers ''by surprise'' when he pulled out a gun and put it to the head of a guard.
Detective Chief Inspector Terry Wilson, who was in charge of the operation, said he could not believe that Mark Nunes, 35, and Andrew Markland, 36, had been shot in the foiled raid on a G4S van in Chandler's Ford in September 2007.
Nunes ran over to a security guard who was delivering cash to the HSBC bank and held the 9mm gun to his head.
The ''meticulously planned'' police covert operation had been set up to intercept and detain ringleader Nunes, from Streatham, South London and his gang, which included Markland, from Brixton, south London.
But an armed officer, who had seen the ''overt act'' when Nunes pulled the gun, opened fire and shot him the chest.
Markland ran over and ''appeared'' to pick up the gun, and he too was shot in the chest.
Previously, surveillance had spotted Markland in a bus stop across the road from the bank, and then Nunes as a passenger in a Volvo estate car. But police did not pounce because they still did not have enough evidence, the hearing in Winchester was told.
Instead, they waited for two minutes until Nunes made his move.
Intelligence had told them he had a gun loaded with armour-piercing ammunition and detectives thought he would use these to penetrate the armour plating of the security van to force the guard inside to throw out more cash.
DCI Wilson said he was in a control car when the message ''we have engaged two suspects'' came over the radio.
He walked into the precinct and saw Markland looking ''peaceful''. When he went over to Nunes as medics lifted up his balaclava, it was then he realised both men had been shot.
He told the jury he then went into ''remote control'' as he scribbled down who he needed to inform as the area became a crime scene.
But he told the jury:
''The aggressor that day was Mark Nunes. I was under no illusions whatsoever that this was a committed criminal, getting more aggressive.
''No-one more than me wanted Mark Nunes locked up for 20 to 25 years. Circumstances did not arise that allowed that to happen.
"Mark Nunes took us all by surprise on that day.
"He managed to get to the guard.
"He placed the guard in a life-threatening situation.
'I have the utmost respect for the rifleman who made that courageous decision in order to protect the public.''
Earlier, the hearing was told that the entire group of officers on the operation, dubbed Hurlock, had a briefing in the early hours of September 13 - the day of the shooting - when standard warnings were issued about the possibility of shots being fired and their responsibilities under human rights legislation regarding the right to life.
DCI Wilson said the agreed protocol with Hampshire police was to safeguard life and arrest the men before the offence took place, if possible.
He explained he could act and try to detain the men if, for example, the cover of officers was blown before the offence was committed.
But if the offence had started, the decision to use force was at the discretion of individual officers if they saw an "overt act'' such as a gun being pulled or the security guard being put in danger.
Officers had staked out the bank after investigating a series of armed and unarmed robberies in London and southern England for a year that had netted £100,000 and had identified Nunes as a suspect.
During one raid in July 2007 in Colchester, Essex, a shot had been fired into the air in an attempt to force the guard inside the van to hand over more cash.
Post-mortem examinations found Nunes died from a high-velocity gunshot wound to the chest which exited through the neck, while Markland died from two separate high-velocity gunshot wounds to the chest.
The hearing was adjourned.