Family representatives and advocates for Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian man shot dead on the London Underground, are accusing Scotland Yard of misrepresenting the circumstances of his killing. A police report leaked to the British press leak reveals that eyewitnesses saw de Menezes being held by officers in his seat before being shot in the head. Initial police accounts of his death claimed he ran from officers, vaulted a ticket barrier and was shot on the floor of the train car.
Helen Shaw, co-director of the campaign group Inquest, said that differences between the accounts—including the disclosure that he was not, as previously claimed, wearing a bulky padded jacket – raised concerns about police conduct. “The public should be told why the Metropolitan police did not correct the misinformation about Mr de Menezes’ clothing and actions once the facts became clear,” she said.
Asad Rehman, a spokesman for the De Menezes family campaign, said the position of Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police commissioner, would no longer be tenable if “it is demonstrated that he wilfully misled the public, that he wilfully misled the family about the circumstances of Jean’s death.”
Mr de Menezes was shot dead in the carriage of a tube train at Stockwell station on July 22 in the mistaken belief that he was linked to the previous day’s failed bomb attempts. A report in the Aug. 17 Financial Times said surveillance officers mistook him for Hussein Osman, the July 21 bomb plot suspect whose extradition to the UK has just been approved by a court in Italy.
According to documents obtained by ITV News from the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), de Menezes was filmed on surveillance cameras entering the station at a normal walking pace and even picking up a free copy of the Metro newspaper. He was wearing a denim jacket.
His family’s solicitor, Harriet Wistrich, said the disclosures meant police had no reason to suspect de Menezes was a suicide bomber, beyond the fact that he came out of an apartment block that was under surveillance.
She told BBC: “It raises very, very serious questions about the shoot-to-kill policy and shows immediate questions need to be asked about whether this policy should be in operation and how dangerously wrong it can go. He was not carrying a rucksack. He simply had a denim jacket… There was no indication he was about to blow himself up at all… [H]e was just unfortunate to be living in a block of flats that was under surveillance and to look slightly brown-skinned.”
Hussein Osman is said to have lived in the same apartment block as de Menezes. A surveillance team saw de Menezes leaving the block and declared a “Code Red,” turning the operation over to officers at the Metropolitan Police SO19 tactical firearms unit, who were given the task of apprehending de Menezes—with permission to shoot if necessary.
Contrary to initial reports, the leaked accounts indicate de Menezes did not run, except briefly to catch a train before he was accosted by police. A man sitting opposite him on the train is quoted as saying: “Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me. He pointed the gun at the right-hand side of the man’s head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man’s head when the first shot was fired.”
The Metropolitan Police are expected to have to pay more than £500,000 in compensation to de Menezes’ family. The leak came just as the force had announced an expansion of its firearms unit in response to the terrorism threat. (UK Guardian, The Scotsman, Aug. 17)