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Suspect was seen shooting himself

The man believed to have murdered an off-duty policeman this week was seen shooting himself in a churchyard the following day, officials have confirmed.

A huge police manhunt for Peter Reeve was launched after Pc Ian Dibell was shot dead in the seaside town of Clacton, Essex on Monday afternoon.

The next day, Reeve, 64, was seen shooting himself in a churchyard in Writtle, near Chelmsford, about 40 miles away from the murder scene, Essex Coroner's Office confirmed.

At an inquest at Chelmsford Coroner's Court, coroner Caroline Beasley-Murray said: "On July 10 2012 he (Reeve) was seen alive in the churchyard in Writtle with a gun and was seen to shoot himself."

Pc Dibell, 41, was off duty when he intervened in a dispute between Trevor Marshall, Mr Marshall's girlfriend and Reeve in Redbridge Road, Clacton. Pc Dibell was shot dead, while Mr Marshall, 48, escaped with leg injuries and his girlfriend survived unscathed.

Reeve disappeared after the shooting and police launched a manhunt that lasted almost 17 hours. His body was discovered near the rural All Saints Church in Writtle on Tuesday morning. He had dumped his car near the murder scene the previous day.

At the inquest into the deaths of Pc Dibell and Reeve, the coroner said: "As the tragic events have unfolded this week in Essex, many people's lives have been affected. I'd like to express my thanks to Essex Police."

Mrs Beasley-Murray passed on her condolences to the families of Pc Dibell and Reeve.

She added: "The families can now return to their funeral arrangements and hopefully be left in peace to grieve for their loved ones."

Detectives from Essex Police continue to conduct a live murder investigation into the events of Monday and Tuesday. They will seek to establish a motive for the shootings and find out exactly the sequence of events. The inquest was adjourned to an unspecified date.