Friday, August 19, 2005

Police shoot to kill fiasco

by Daphne Liddle

THE REPUTATION of London’s anti-terrorist police is in shreds after leaked documents from an inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission show that the innocent young Brazilian shot at Stockwell Tube station on 22nd July had been overpowered and held by police before being shot eight times.

The documents leaked to ITN last Tuesday also exploded many myths that have grown around the shooting.

The tragedy began when officers from the CO19 firearms squad were watching a block of flats in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill in south London. They were looking for Osman Hussein, a man suspected of involvement in the failed Tube bombings of the previous day.

Under the exceptional circumstances they had been given permission to shoot to kill if necessary – that is to say if they thought their suspect was likely to detonate a suicide bomb at any moment, endangering public safety.

But they were told that it would be preferable to apprehend him before he had a chance to get on to any public transport.


When Jean Charles de Menezes appeared from the flats they mistook him for their target. One of the officers designated to confirm identity was away relieving himself at the time but it is not known if this made any significant difference to the events that followed.

Menezes took a bus to Stockwell Tube station and entered the station, totally unaware that he was being followed by police.

He walked at a normal speed, picking up a free paper on the way. At the bottom of the escalator he began to run – to catch a train waiting at the platform.

He boarded the train and sat down. Armed plain clothes police then burst into the carriage. One witness said they heard shouting, including the word police as the police turned towards Menezes.

One police officer told the inquiry: “He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 officers … I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back into the seat where he had previously been sitting … I then heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage [by his colleagues].”

Menezes fell on the floor where another 10 shots were fired, seven of them into his head and three missed.

It soon turned out they had got the wrong man. And that’s when a whole string of myths were fostered by police that might make their mistake seem less culpable.

Sir Ian Blair, chief of the Metropolitan Police, told the media that he had been told Menezes had been wearing a suspicious padded jacket with wires attached, that he had fled his pursuers onto the Tube, vaulting a ticket barrier on the way.


“His clothing and behaviour added to our suspicions,” he told the press.

It could be this myth arose from a witness report who saw a plain clothes police officer vaulting the ticket barrier and mistook him for the target.

But Sir Ian Blair was happy to let this myth flourish and later add to it that Menezes may have run because his visa to stay in this country had run out – which was totally untrue. Blair also delayed the IPCC inquiry while the attempted bombings on 21st July were investigated.

It later emerged that while the police were shooting Menezes, the real Osman Hussein left the country on the Eurostar from Waterloo – unchallenged. He is now being held in Rome pending extradition proceedings.

The family of Menezes are calling for murder charges to be brought against the police involved. His cousin Alex Alvez Pereira said: “the officers who have done this have to be sent to jail for life because it’s murder and the people who gave them the order to shoot must be punished. We won’t rest until we have justice, even if it takes years.”