Police were involved in a 19-hour stand-off with a householder who had armed himself with a bottle of household cleaning fluid. At least 100 officers surrounded Richard Jablonski's home in Weston Coyney, Staffordshire, last January after someone called police to say he had a gun. Following the siege Mr Jablonski was arrested and charged with possessing an imitation firearm with intent to cause fear of violence. But the case was dropped at Stoke-on-Trent Crown Court yesterday after it was accepted the 38-year-old was actually holding a bottle of the Cillit Bang cleaning product during the incident.
Staffordshire Police have always refused to reveal the cost of the Aster Close siege, despite coming under pressure from their own police authority members. Paul Spratt, prosecuting, told the court: "When officers got to the address the defendant was alleged to have produced a gun, before retiring into the property and holding them at bay. The defendant asserted what he was holding was a bottle of Cillit Bang. There is an unresolvable conflict between the evidence from the police and the evidence of the defendant. Therefore the prosecution offers no evidence in this case."
Judge Paul Glenn returned a not guilty verdict. Mr Jablonski had been due to stand trial early next month. Armed police cordoned off part of the Weston Heights estate and a section of the A520 Leek Road as they tried to coax Mr Jablonski out of the house during the siege on January 6. After the incident, officers recovered a BB gun from Mr Jablonski's kitchen, although it is now accepted he was not holding the firearm during the siege. Staffordshire Police have defended the Aster Close operation.
In a joint statement with Staffordshire Crown Prosecution Service (CPS), the force said: "The CPS, after consulting with Staffordshire Police, has decided to offer no evidence, for legal and evidential reasons. For the duration of the incident the police response was overseen by highly-trained and skilled officers who managed the situation in a measured manner and ultimately brought it to a safe and peaceful conclusion.