by Simon Basketter
Key parts of the police account of the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes are untrue, according to the jury that took part in the inquest into his death.
On 22 July 2005 police at Stockwell tube station in south London shot Jean Charles de Menezes seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.
The jury recorded an open verdict on the killing. Jean Charles’s family accused coroner Sir Michael Wright of “presiding over a complete whitewash”. They added that he had “failed on every count” during proceedings.
The coroner had told the jury that they could not return a verdict of unlawful killing. This verdict would have apportioned blame to the police and was the one the authorities feared most.
Despite this restriction, the jury made several criticisms of the police. They ruled that the firearms officer known as C12 did not shout the words “armed police” before opening fire.
They ruled that although Jean Charles had stood up from his seat, he had made no move towards officer C12 before he was seized by a surveillance officer known as Ivor.
Importantly, they found that Jean Charles’s innocent behaviour—which the coroner said had “increased the suspicions of some officers”—did not contribute to his killing.
So even on this narrowest of measures Jean Charles did nothing untoward—even accidentally.
The evidence given by 100 witnesses at the inquest has revealed a number of issues about how the criminal justice system operates and how it protects some but not others.
Much of the inquest evidence demonstrated that lies were told about Jean Charles’s behaviour after his killing.
These included the police’s claims that Jean Charles was an illegal immigrant, that he was wearing a bulky jacket—apparently leading police to think he may have been concealing a bomb—and that he jumped over the ticket barrier.
During the inquest it emerged that some police officers altered their evidence. Some had to retract or change sections of their evidence after it was shown to be false.
There were many contradictions between the accounts of surveillance officers and firearms officers. Many officers were allowed to give evidence anonymously and from behind screens.
Evidence tampering and removal were discovered. There were also allegations of witness intimidation.
The establishment response has been predictable. Chief Inspector Martin Rush is the senior firearms instructor who was in charge of training the officers that shot Jean Charles.
He said the officers “should be admired, but they are actually being vilified, and I think that is dreadfully unfortunate”.
Ken Livingstone and former Metropolitan Police chief Sir Ian Blair defended the police.
Following the verdict, Livingstone said, “I tend to believe the police account of this because this is what they’re trained to do.”
No officer at any level has been disciplined or prosecuted for involvement in the slaying of the Brazilian.
And there is still no sign of anyone being held responsible.
Jean Charles’s family has launched a judicial appeal against the coroner’s decision to rule out the possibility of an unlawful killing verdict.
“Police officers made a lot of mistakes,” said Jean Charles’s mother. “There were a lot of failures on their part.”
Giovani da Silva, brother of Jean Charles, added, “We will carry on fighting because what we want is justice.”