The Barnet policeman accused of murder for killing a man after mistaking a table leg for a gun has spoken of the six-year ordeal to clear his name.

In the first full-length interview since the Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) announced two weeks ago that it would not press charges, Chief Inspector Neil Sharman, 42, has explained what happened on that evening in 1999, how he thinks the man he killed was partly to blame, and the moment he was told the gun' was a table leg.

On September 22, 1999, Chf Insp Sharman and colleague PC Kevin Fagan, 38, of the Metropolitan Police's firearms unit, were called to a street in Hackney after reports that a man had left a pub carrying a plastic bag containing a sawn-off shotgun. The man was Harry Stanley, a 46-year-old painter and decorator, originally from Scotland.

Another drinker at the pub called police saying he had seen Mr Stanley in the pub and was convinced the bag had a gun in it. Mr Stanley, who had recently left hospital after having a cancerous tumour removed, was close to his Hackney home when Chf Insp Sharman and PC Fagan caught up with him.

Chf Insp Sharman said: "The bag was held down by his right-hand side. It was cylindrical, it was the right length and shape for a shotgun. As we turned the corner, Mr Stanley was walking away from us and that's when we challenged him. We were shouting: Stop police!' I was saying: Drop the gun!' I said it two, three times, very loudly.

"He just stopped and slowly turned. He was not very far away at all. He turned slowly. It was not a flinch, it was controlled. He turned to face us, pulled the bag into his hips and then started to bring the bag up. It was classic preparation to fire a shotgun, and that was when I fired."

Mr Stanley died at the scene. He had been hit twice the decisive shot coming from Chf Insp Sharman.

A short time later, while still at the scene, a colleague told Chf Insp Sharman what they had thought was a shotgun was actually a table leg. Chf Insp Sharman was so shocked to hear it was not a gun It's probably best not to put what I thought into print' that he asked his colleague to check again.

A photograph, seen by the Hendon Times Group and used as evidence, shows the table leg to be almost identical in size and shape to a sawn-off shotgun.

Over the next six years, Chf Insp Sharman had to endure two inquests, the second of which ruled Mr Stanley had been killed unlawfully. He was duly suspended, though later reinstated to desk duties. He has been working at Barnet police headquarters in Colindale since August last year.

A national newspaper recently quoted a relative of Mr Stanley's who said his actions had been intended to get himself shot because he had wanted to die a line of inquiry police did pursue but failed to prove.

"The only person that can answer what his intentions were is Mr Stanley," said Chf Insp Sharman.

"All I can say is that it was a controlled, deliberate act to hold and raise the bag as if it were a gun. There was no room in my mind for any different interpretation. It was just so clear cut.

"He left me no choice that evening. I had been pushed into a situation by his actions."