The gunman at the centre of the Hackney siege died after vowing he would not be taken alive by police who had pursued him for much of his adult life.
Eli Hall had a “record as long as your arm”, police sources said, and was prepared to take his life rather than face jail for four possible charges of attempting to murder officers in the stand-off, which ended on Thursday night.
The body of Jamaican-born Mr Hall, who claimed to have God on his side during Britain’s longest siege, was spotted by officers at the rear of the premises in Graham Road, east London, at 9.30pm, almost 12 hours after he had set fire to the building.
Police were unable to recover his body until the fire-damaged premises was shored up and declared safe by structural engineers. Mr Hall was finally taken away from the scene last night.
The gunman had barricaded himself inside his bedsit on Boxing Day to escape police officers investigating the involvement of his car, a Toyota Corolla registered abroad, in a shooting in Soho in August.
Officers believe he had a small arsenal of weapons, ammunition and petrol in the flat, which he may have used to start the fire.
Mr Hall was wanted by police for allegedly firing at officers during two drugs-related incidents last year. He had been jailed six times in the past decade for firearms offences, violence and drug dealing.
Mr Hall’s family is well known to detectives from Scotland Yard’s Operation Trident, which investigates black-on-black crime. Dean, his 25-year-old brother, a former member of a street gang called the African Crew, was jailed for eight years for gun and drugs offences in 2001 and 17-year-old Ermias Hall, another brother, was killed in a gangland shooting in Mitcham, south London, in July.
The final movements of Mr Hall will be pieced together by the findings of a post-mortem examination, to be made by Poplar’s coroner, and fire investigators, once the building has been declared safe.
Yesterday morning, police and fire crews began a clear-up operation and all but the occupants of eight fire-damaged houses returned home. Forty-three residents who chose to remain in their homes instead of moving to temporary accommodation were free to come and go. One neighbour, who did not want to be named, said she knew Mr Hall and that he had “mental problems”. She said: “He was a friendly guy. I was very upset yesterday when I heard about what had happened. You could tell he had mental problems from the way he talked. He seemed emotionally wasted.”
Claudine Duberry, who chairs the Hackney Independent Advisory Group, confirmed that a 20-year old man who escaped from the flat on Sunday had been living in a neighbouring bedsit. He had been moved to a safehouse amid fears he might be targeted by Mr Hall’s associates.