AN inquest jury yesterday heard the dramatic moment a father-of-two rang 999 saying he wanted to die – and just over an hour later he was shot dead by a police marksman.

Keith Richards, 47, who had armed himself with a crossbow, told a Durham Police call handler that he had nothing to live for, and wanted to shoot officers.

Police who were sent to his home in Cheapside, Shildon, reportedly came under fire from crossbow bolts, and after a short stand-off, Mr Richards was shot and killed by a marksman at 1.20am on May 12, 2009 – the first fatal shooting by an officer from the Durham force.

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A full inquest into his death began yesterday at The Work Place, in Newton Aycliffe.

Jurors were played recordings of several 999 calls made by Mr Richards to police around midnight on May 11.

Emergency call handlers initially suspected he was making hoax calls.

He told the police that a large fight was taking place near his home, but officers who attended failed to find anything.

During a later 999 call, Mr Richards said he faced a drink-drive charge and wanted to die.

Despite the police worker trying to engage him in conversation, Mr Richards continued to claim he wanted to be dead and said he wanted to shoot the police.

The inquest heard that Mr Richards’ recent past had been troubled.

He suffered from depression and was facing a charge of drink-driving after being arrested early on May 6 in Central Avenue, Newton Aycliffe.

He had a debt problem, and he and his wife, Julie, had handed the keys of their home to the bank voluntarily to avoid it from being repossessed.

Mr Richards had been a victim of crime when thieves stole tools he had been using to repair houses, and he had left a job as a teaching assistant at Windlestone School, near Chilton, which caters for pupils with emotional and behavioural problems.

Coroner Andrew Tweddle suggested that this could have led to work-related stress issues.

Mr Richards’ brother, Stephen, a retired detective superintendent, told the inquest: “I think it’s fair to say that at times his overall mental health was not what it should have been and he suffered from depression.

“I wasn’t aware that he wanted to kill himself, but I was aware of two occasions when he was taken to hospital when he had taken some tablets. The first time was in 2007 and the second time was in 2008.”

He said that he and his brother had an interest in guns as children and that Keith was a competent shot.

He said: “We had air rifles as children and when we grew up we got a shotgun and we were really interested in clay pigeon shooting.

“I didn’t know he owned a crossbow and I had no idea that he was interested in crossbows.”

A post-mortem examination on Mr Richards found 220mg of alcohol in 100ml of blood in his body, with the drink-drive limit being 80mg.

Traces of anti-depressant drugs were also found.

Pathologist Dr Mark Egan, who carried out the examination, said the wounds were consistent with those of someone who was shot while holding a crossbow.

The inquest is expected to last for two weeks and continues today.