Wednesday, August 17, 2005

The story of Jean Charles de Menezes is getting very weird. If this is right it's an extraordinary cock-up.

Update. My God! According to The Times :

SCOTLAND YARD made “a series of catastrophic errors” that led to armed officers hunting the July 21 bombers shooting dead an innocent Brazilian, it was claimed last night.

Leaked witness statements from officers who took part in the botched operation reveal that Jean Charles de Menezes was restrained by one of Scotland Yard’s surveillance team before being shot eight times as he sat on a Tube train.

Documents and photographs from the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation also reveal that one of the undercover team meant to be identifying the shot man was relieving himself as Mr de Menezes left his flat on July 22, so could not tell if they had traced Hussain Osman, one of the alleged bombers. It is also suggested that Mr de Menezes could have been taken alive.

Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, will come under pressure to explain how a sophisticated police operation went so badly wrong.

An ITV News investigation claims that when Mr de Menezes, 27, was challenged by police on the Northern Line train at Stockwell he did not make any aggressive move. Police claims at the time that the electrician was “behaving erratically” are alleged to be false.

The blunders began as Mr de Menezes emerged from his flat in Tulse Hill in South London at 9.30am. The undercover officer who was meant to identify anyone leaving the flats admitted that he had left his post, so could not communicate observations or take video footage.

His advice was, “It would be worth someone else having a look”, to ensure that they had the right man. No other officer apparently took a picture of him, although Mr de Menezes had to take a bus to the station. Even so, Gold Command at Scotland Yard, which ran this operation, declared a “code red” and handed responsibility to CO19 — the firearms team.

This armed team had been given photographs of alleged bombers, yet no one realised that Mr de Menezes bore no resemblance to them. The report states that the firearms unit had been told that “unusual tactics” might be required and if they “were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge, but if the subject was non-compliant, a critical shot may be taken”.

CCTV footage shows that Mr de Menezes was wearing a thin denim jacket that could not conceal a bomb, and he was not carrying a bag. Far from running from police, he did not realise that anyone was following him and even picked up a free newspaper before using his season ticket to pass through the barrier. He began to run only when he saw his train pull into the station. At the time of the shooting, Scotland Yard said that Mr de Menezes’s “clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their suspicions”. It was only when Mr de Menezes boarded the train that a surveillance officer guided four armed police into the same carriage.

A man sitting opposite him 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 report reveals that one of the surveillance team grabbed Mr de Menezes before he was shot. “I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side,” a statement says.

“I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting . . . I heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage.”

Last night Harriet Wistrich, lawyer for the dead man’s family, said that there were still “far more questions than answers” about police conduct. The family called for a full inquiry.

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