Dean is critical of police after cathedral shooting

03 December 2008

by Bill Bowder

Scene of shooting: Guildford Cathedral remained cordoned off throughout Monday

Scene of shooting: Guildford Cathedral remained cordoned off throughout Monday

BULLETS were fired into Guildford Cathedral in an incident in which David Sycamore, a man aged 39, who lived nearby, was killed by police on the steps of the cathedral at about 3 p.m. on Sunday, the Dean of Guildford, the Very Revd Victor Stock, said on Tuesday.

The shooting ended a police action in which two police vehicles responded to a report from a member of the public that a man in the vicinity of the cathedral had said that he had a gun and intended to kill people.

Bullets penetrated the walls of the cathedral crèche and then passed through the area where the cathedral guides normally gather. Although there were no children in the crèche at the time, there had been several visitors and staff in the cathedral.

The cathedral was closed for a day-and-a-half while a team from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) examined the site of the killing and interviewed witnesses.

Speaking on Tuesday, after the cathedral had been reopened, the Dean said that he had been in the deanery when the shooting took place, and that he saw the victim from a distance, being attended by paramedics.

“He had said to a member of the public: ‘I have got a gun and I am going to kill people,’ and then moved towards the cathedral. I think what happened was that he was sitting on the steps of the South Garth, where there is a kind of open cloister.

“Then the police screamed up in two vehicles. I think he put his hand into his pocket and pulled out something that looked like a gun, and they shot him. The bullets entered the cathedral through the glass walls of the crèche, and then passed through the glass walls the other side of the crèche where the guides were sitting. I said to them [the police]: ‘If you had shot an old lady in the cathedral, it would not have looked good, would it?’”


Dean Stock said that he had insisted he be allowed to say prayers over the body, and was allowed to do so from the steps of the cathedral. “I was not allowed near it. I stood on the steps. It was seven or eight in the evening. It had been proposed that the body should remain there un­attended all night. It was eventually removed around 3 a.m.”

The Dean was critical of the police for closing his cathedral without asking him first. “I was not treated with any kind of courtesy. I was told the cathedral was shut and that was that.”

He had cancelled the Advent carol service that was to take place that evening, at which 500 people had been expected, and a school carol service was cancelled the next day.

“It is the first time since the cathedral was consecrated in 1961 that morning prayers have not been said.”

The Dean said that the police had shown little understanding of the function of a cathedral or of its place as sanctuary or sacred space. “A police constable said it would be like someone being killed on the outside of Tescos, but I said the cathedral was not the outside of Tesco, it is the major church in Surrey.”

The head of the IPCC had told the Dean: “If you were the mosque, we would have been walking on egg- shells.”

“He knew nothing about sanc­tuary or hallowed ground, and about people coming to the cathedral because it was sacred space. They had no idea, none at all, of the idea of sanctuary. It was almost breath­taking.”

Canon Angela Weaver, the Cathedral’s canon pastor, said that she had heard about the shooting when her husband returned from walking their dog. “There was at that stage no police cordon. I went round the south side, and we could see police officers. I wouldn’t like to say what they were doing. It looked as if they were trying to resuscitate some­body. There were two cathedral guides in the cathedral, a couple of visitors, the Dean’s verger, the organist and the sub-organist.”

The family of David Sycamore, asked the IPCC to issue a statement on their behalf, part of which read:

“It is with much sadness that we are writing this statement to you. This has been a great shock to our family and because of this we would like to be left in peace to come to terms with our loss which has happened to such a loving and caring young man. In his short life David has suffered with manic depression which we believe he coped with, with extreme difficulty at times.

“David found solace in the grounds of the Cathedral and said it brought him inner peace and closer to God. Unfortunately that day he did not find inner peace. His intentions were never to harm anybody. He would never do this. But sadly the only loss was David who will be sorely missed.”


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