'Never so scared in my life'

The police constable who shot a 21-year-old Westbury man says he feared for his life when he drew his gun and pulled the trigger. 

Nicholas Martin Whiteley died after being shot by Longford constable Ian Blake following two altercations at Mr Whiteley's Westbury home in November 2010. 

The coronial inquest into the details and circumstances of Mr Whitely's death began yesterday in the Launceston Magistrates Court. 

In a police interview played at the inquest Constable Blake said he went to Mr Whiteley's home alone to ``keep the  peace'' on a Sunday morning  while Mr Whiteley's partner Sheena Button attended to collect her belongings.  

Not long after arriving he attempted to arrest Mr Whiteley then sprayed him with capsicum spray, following what he said was continual abuse and an escalation in Mr Whiteley's anger.

He then followed Mr Whiteley inside the home to carry out the arrest and provide ``after-care'' for the effects of  the capsicum spray. 

Despite believing he had the situation under control, Constable Blake said Mr Whiteley turned on him, beat him to the ground and turned his capsicum spray on him, repeatedly stating: ``I'm going to kill you.''

He said he felt ``terrified'', believing Mr Whiteley would `carry out his threat'', before firing his gun without issuing a warning. 

``I just pulled my firearm, pointed at the shape and pulled the trigger,'' he said. 

``I was spluttering I hadn't been able to give a warning, I was gagging.''

Police pressed him several times on why he thought Mr Whiteley was a threat to his life. 

``The ferocity of the attack on me, what he was saying and his intention,'' he replied.  

He said Mr Whiteley never tried to take his gun, which he had covered with his hand, and could not recall hitting him with his baton as alleged by witnesses. 

Mr Blake said he suffered soreness, a chipped tooth, ringing in the ears and was bruised.

Following the shooting he felt ``very shaken'' and ``very regretful of what happened''.

``It's almost beyond belief .... it's quite indescribable,'' he said.

He said he had met Mr Whiteley on a previous police job,  which had ended ``fantastically well''.

``I had absolutely no worries about going over to speak to him again,'' he said.

Audio tapes of police radio dispatches before, during and after the shooting were made available at the inquest. 

They indicated other police were about 20 minutes away when Constable Blake called for backup.

Before attending the job Constable Blake was told by the police radio dispatcher that Mr Whitley may be ``potentially violent''.

Mr Blake responded in a joking tone ``I've got just the thing for violent people''.

The inquest heard an officer at the scene shortly after the shooting allowed Mr Whiteley's father and grandfather ``rightly or wrongly''   to pay their ``final respects'' to Mr Whiteley's body in situ. 

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