A career criminal who was on the run for the murder of a pensioner following a £250,000 robbery was shot dead by police who thought they saw the barrel of a shotgun as they tried to arrest him, an inquest has heard.
William Smith was on the run following the murder of Roy Blackman during a robbery which saw a safe containing up to £250,000 in cash stolen.
An inquest into the 36-year-old builder's fatal shooting was told how he had been 'high on drugs' when the 73-year-old victim was viciously beaten to death during the bungalow burglary in March 2016.
Despite being arrested over the murder, Smith, who lived in Golford, Kent with wife Nancy and their children, was later released on bail with an electronic tag to monitor his whereabouts.
But he removed the tag and went on the run.
Police believed that when they tried to arrest him he might shoot himself before he could be detained.
When armed cops tracked him down and made their way into his hide-out, they saw what they believed to be a shotgun poking over the top of a sofa, an inquest heard.
William Smith, also known as 'Curly Bill,' was shot dead by police after going on the run, following the brutal murder of Roy Blackman in Kent in 2016
Addressing a jury of eleven at the inquest, held in Maidstone, counsel for Kent Police, Christopher Sutton-Mattocks QC, said cops were hunting 'a wanted man' in connection with the murder when he was fatally hit with three rounds to the head and chest on land belonging to his father-in-law.
'He was shot dead by officers of Kent Police in May 2016 near Goudhurst,' he said. 'He was at the time he was shot being sought by the police having breached bail by removing an electronic tag.'
The inquest, which is being held at County Hall in Maidstone and is expected to last five weeks, heard from Mr Sutton-Mattocks that Smith was a 'career criminal with a drug habit' who officers believed would try 'to shoot himself if approached by police'.
Describing the police operation in the days leading up to the shooting on May 1 2016, Mr Sutton-Mattocks told the jury how Smith was believed 'to have in his possession a handgun which he concealed in his trousers'.
Outlining the case, he told the jury: 'You will be hearing a little bit more about this handgun in due course.
In the days leading up to Smith's killing, armed plain-clothes officers conducted a series of operations, but were unable to apprehend the fugitive.
Roy Blackman, 73, was viciously beaten to death during the bungalow burglary in March 2016, a safe containing £250,000 was stolen. Mark Love was later convicted of the pensioner's murder
Intelligence then linked the wanted man to an orchard at the small village of Goudhurst on land owned by his father-in-law, and officers were tasked with drawing up a plan to encircle Smith and return him to custody.
The inquest was played a recording of a police briefing, which began at 10.33am on May 1, during which an officer is heard explaining how it was believed Smith, who had a history of using drugs including cocaine, MDMA and ketamine, might harm himself rather than be arrested by police.
Before the end of the short briefing, which concluded at 10.41am, officers were asked if they understand firearms should only be used as a last resort.
They replied together with 'Yes sir.'
Later that day at 8.24pm, just minutes after sunset, an operation involving armed police and unarmed surveillance officers began at the orchard in Goudhurst.
Smith was seen by officers out in the open, talking on a mobile phone, but he spotted police and retreated to a shed on the land. He is said to have told the person on the other end of the line. 'I have got to shave, the police are here.
Commanding officers then approved a 'limited entry' of the building, which saw the four armed officers open a door to gain sight of what was inside - at which point they say they saw what they believed to be the barrel of a shotgun pointing from behind an upturned chair or sofa.
One of the armed officers - identified only as Officer T - then launched a stun grenade into the building and they retreated. Four shots were then fired, one hitting Smith above the left eye and two hitting him in the chest.
Despite attempts to resuscitate Mr Smith, paramedics pronounced him dead at the scene at 9.10pm. A post mortem toxicology report found he had blood alcohol levels almost three times the legal drink driving limit.
Mr Sutton-Mattocks explained to the jury: 'What transpired from the moment police officers drove down that lane and reached the area Mr Smith was in will be subject of considerable dispute.
'When I set out the events that occurred, bear in mind that these are the accounts of the officers involved.'
The inquest had earlier been told how DNA evidence had linked Smith to a number of violent, armed burglaries in the months leading up to his death.
One of the shotguns stolen during the Northiam break-in was later found near to Smith following his death at the hands of the police in Goudhurst, while the barrel of the second was also recovered at the scene.
Police officers track Smith down to an orchard near Smiths Lane in Goudhurst, Kent (pictured), he was shot three times as police reported seeing a shotgun poking over the top of a sofa, an inquest has heard
Leslie Thomas QC, counsel for Smith's family, read to the court a short statement from his widow Nancy, who was in the council chamber this afternoon along with his father.
The statement said: 'I was married to Bill for 17 years since July 3, 1999. We have four children, they are now 20, 19, 16 and 11. Bill was a loving and supportive father to our children, and we all miss him so much.
'Coming to terms with his death is a daily struggle.
'I know that the offences for which he was accused are extremely serious, but like everyone else in this country he was innocent until proven guilty.'
Following a summary of the evidence which has been presented as uncontested by counsel representing all interested parties, the coroner, Judge Alexia Durran, restated to the jury that 'an inquest is not a trial'.
The evidence of Smith's often-violent past, she said, was being presented to the hearing as context for the events leading up to his death and the actions of the police involved.
The inquest is expected to hear evidence from former Kent Police Inspector Karl Thomas, who has since left the force and serves with police in Ontario, Canada.
He will give his testimony of his involvement in the planning of the operation via video link from his new home.