A 37-year-old woman who was killed by a police marksman in the early hours of yesterday morning was a lesbian, it has emerged.

Friends and work colleagues have described Ann Sanderson as a gentle, loyal and helpful person who suffered from mental illness.

Police in the suburban town of Sevenoaks are investigating her death.

She was brandishing a firearm at officers, which she refused to put down when confronted.

She pointed the weapon, later found to be an imitation, at a police marksman, who shot her.

Ms Sanderson is the first woman to have been purposely shot by British police.

Officers are investigating the suggestion that she actually goaded police into killing her, a practice called “suicide by cop.”

Neighbour Vivian Bain, 43, told the Evening Standard:

“She was a very nice person and very helpful if I needed anything.

“Ann was a tomboyish kind of person, had a shaved head and always wore combat trousers. I think she was into martial arts.

“She might have been suffering from a mental illness, as this row of houses is normally sheltered housing for patients.”

Ms Sanderson worked in a local shop and in a factory in the centre of the town.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission is investigating her death.