Socialist Worker

Inquest into de Menezes killing opens

by Simon Basketter
Issue No. 2120

A banner reading “Inquest Not Cover-Up” hangs from flats near The Oval cricket ground, south London, where Southwark Coroner’s Court is sitting for three months.

The inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes is taking place there in the John Major room. Less than a mile away lies Stockwell tube station, where the 27 year old was killed by the police on 22 July 2005.

That day one police officer leapt onto Jean Charles and pinned him to his seat on the tube train. Then another two police officers rushed up close enough to touch him with their handguns.

They repeatedly fired hollow-point bullets – designed to pour all their force into a victim without coming out the other side – into the back of his head.


The police claimed that Jean Charles was a suicide bomber. But in fact he was just an innocent man going to work.

In an internal video message to officers this week, Metropolitan police chief Ian Blair told his force that they had to accept that “Jean Charles de Menezes was an entirely innocent man and the Metropolitan Police takes full responsibility for his death”.

But so far the Met has done little to accept its role in the killing. The police force lied to the media about Jean Charles and what had happened at Stockwell station. It pleaded not guilty to having “undermined his health and safety” at a trial where it was convicted and fined £175,000.


This time the family hopes that the inquest’s jury will return a verdict of unlawful killing. The inquest will hear from witnesses on the tube, none of whom say they heard warnings that the police claim to have shouted.

For the first time, we will hear from the two firearms officers who shot Jean Charles. The accounts of firearms teams and surveillance officers differ – they have separate teams of lawyers at the inquest.

Around 65 police officers will give evidence, 49 of whom have been granted anonymity.

Whatever emerges at the inquest, it will not apportion blame. No police officer has been prosecuted or even disciplined for the slaying.

What has not been explained is why an innocent man walking to a tube station was hunted down and shot dead – and why the police lied about it afterwards.

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Tue 23 Sep 2008, 18:04 BST
Issue No. 2120
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