Confronted by a knife-wielding man in the back corridors of a busy Sydney shopping centre, Inspector Toby Austin did what he felt he had to do.

It was a situation “no police officer wants to face”.

Confronted by a knife-wielding man in the back corridors of a busy Sydney shopping centre, Inspector Toby Austin did what he felt he had to do.

He fired his gun a number of times, killing Darren Edward Neill.

At Glebe Coroner’s Court on Monday, Deputy State Coroner Paul MacMahon not only vindicated the actions of Insp Austin, but said he should be recognised for his “professionalism and bravery”.

An inquest into the death of Neill on March 25, 2012, was told of a tense series of events, in which Insp Austin tracked the shirtless man by following his blood spatters through corridors of the Parramatta Westfield shopping centre before a final, terrifying confrontation.

It started less than an hour earlier at Kingswood, western Sydney, when Neill, on parole for offences committed in Queensland, tried to rob a taxi driver at gunpoint about 3.20pm.

Neill was a drug user in a severely disturbed mental state, despite his family’s efforts to help him.

Shortly before his death, he told a friend: “I’m going to end it. I can’t keep going on like this … I’m going to end up in a high-speed chase.”

He stole a car at Kingsgrove and hurtled down the M4 motorway at speeds of up to 175km/h, pursued by police on the ground and in the air.

During the pursuit, Neill crashed the car, before car-jacking another and continuing on to the shopping centre.

It was there that Insp Austin was alerted to the scene.

Witnessing Neill running shirtless and bloodied through the car park, he followed.

Much of the interaction between the pair was captured on CCTV, with witnesses telling the inquest they heard Insp Austin yell, “Stop, otherwise I will shoot you”.

Insp Austin told the inquest that as he and Neill entered back corridors “I remember consciously slowing down and being afraid that this guy is going to be around this area here”.

Glancing into a garbage room, Insp Austin said he saw Neill crouched on the ground.

“He screamed something to me … and started getting up and before I knew it, he was coming right up to me,” Insp Austin said.

As the officer retreated, he said he tripped over and discharged one or two rounds of his gun.

“By this time I was on the ground and he was just over the top of me,” the officer said.

“He had something in his right hand and I fired … I thought he was going to stab me with the knife.”

After the final shots, Neill fell on top of the officer.

He died at the scene.

The inquest, held in November, considered issues including whether Insp Austin’s action in shooting Neill was justified.

“The short answer must be that it was,” Mr MacMahon said.

“I am satisfied that Inspector Austin’s actions were completely justified in the circumstances and necessary to protect himself from serious injury or death.

Neill was “capable of responding in a violent and aggressive manner” and “a danger to both himself and others”, he added.

After the findings, acting Police Commissioner David Hudson said Insp Austin “found himself in a position that no officer wants to face”.