Socialist Worker

Questions remain over killing of Jean Charles de Menezes

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2063

In the space of 30 seconds at 10.06 am on 22 July 2005, Jean Charles de Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder with hollow tip bullets by police who had followed him on to a tube train at Stockwell, south London.

He was not given a chance to protest his innocence before he was killed. At least one senior police officer chose to lie about the shooting.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) report published last week said police had not given Jean Charles any instruction “that an innocent man would have understood” before he was shot.

The report said that after the shooting the police released “incorrect information” and Jean Charles had not run, worn bulky clothing or resisted arrest.

Within hours of Jean Charles being killed officers not connected to the case heard of a “massive cock-up” and that a “Brazilian tourist” had been shot. Even off-duty officers watching cricket at Lord’s heard of a “terrible mistake”.

According to the IPCC no one bothered to tell Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police.

Asked by Socialist Worker whether Blair had made enough effort to find out, IPCC chair Nick Hardwick said, “You could argue he could have been a bit more active.”

Mislead

The report does say assistant commissioner Andy Hayman, “chose to mislead the public by his actions” and misled senior officers. It branded Hayman’s behaviour tantamount to misconduct.

The IPCC said Jean Charles’s real identity was suspected by 3pm. By 4.30pm, Hayman had told journalists he was not one of the 21 July bombers.

At 5pm at a meeting of senior police officers Hayman said, “There is press running that the person shot is not one of the four bombers. We need to present that he is believed to be.”

That led to “inaccurate or misleading information” being circulated. The rumours appear to have been discussed within feet of Ian Blair. Deputy assistant commissioner Brian Paddick told the IPCC he heard the “tourist” story from Sir Ian’s own staff at about 3.30pm.

Blair walked past but nothing was said – and minutes later he told the media the shooting was “directly” linked to anti-terror operations.

Harriet Wistrech, lawyer for Jean Charles de Menezes’s family said it was “inconceivable” that Blair did not know on the day that Jean Charles was shot that he was an innocent man.

Ian Blair said after the report was published, “If I had lied I would not be fit to hold this office. I did not lie.”

The de Menezes’s family said at a press conference after the publication of the report, “We cannot understand how they could kill an innocent man in the biggest policing scandal of the decade, lie about it and never have to account for their actions.”

Patricia Armani da Silva, Jean Charles’s cousin, said police had been allowed to “get away with murder. It is a huge injustice and very shameful. They are treating the life that was taken away by their hands as if it was an animal’s.”

Praise

In contrast Ken Livingstone, the mayor of London, praised Hayman and attacked the IPCC for “sitting in their office saying ‘this is how it should have worked’. You try doing it when you are waiting for the next bomb to go off.”

The police, sections of the media and Ken Livingstone have attempted to exonerate the police by pointing to the “unprecedented challenges” they faced with four apparent bombers on the loose.

This does not explain why Cressida Dick, the commander in charge of the operation that led to the killing at Stockwell station, was promoted.

Nor why Hayman was awarded a CBE just days after he was forced to apologise to two brothers released following a terror raid on their home in Forest Gate, east London.

Despite the release of the report there are many questions remaining.

The first IPCC report into the shooting has still not been released, while sections of the latest report have been removed under the threat of legal action by officers criticised in it.

That legal action was paid for by the Metropolitan Police Authority. This is the authority that has promoted officers involved in the case. It will decide what, if any, sanctions those criticised will face.

The IPCC fails to explain why a statement to the press, which said Jean Charles had been challenged by the police before he was shot, was released without being verified.

Nor does it explain why an innocent man walking to a tube station was hunted down and shot dead and why the police lied about it afterwards.

No officers have been charged over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes.

The IPCC has recommended that those criticised in their report should only receive “constructive advice” from their managers.


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Wed 8 Aug 2007, 19:58 BST
Issue No. 2063
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