London’s police forces and their “shoot-to-kill” policy for terrorists were under acute pressure yesterday after leaked documents revealed a chilling series of blunders that led to the killing of innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes.
Documents and photographs, obtained by Britain’s ITV news network, appear to wholly contradict plain-clothes police claims that Mr de Menezes was dressed and acting suspiciously, and ignoring police warnings when he was shot seven times to the head on July 22 in front of horrified fellow passengers on an Underground train.
They also suggest that an unscheduled toilet break taken by a London plain-clothes police officer may have cost Mr de Menezes his life.
When the 27-year-old Brazilian electrician left his Scotia Road apartment building at 9.30am that day, he was unaware he was being covertly watched by a police surveillance team monitoring the flats.
The team was waiting, according to the leaked documents, for Hussain Osman, a young Ethiopian-born man suspected of having attempted just a day earlier to blow up a train at nearby Shepherds Bush.
The officer charged with photographing the suspect, however, was answering a call of nature when Mr de Menezes emerged and did not have a free hand to operate his video device.
As a result, no reliable visual identification was made; the officer reported that a male of the appropriate age had left the building but advised that it would be worth someone else having a look to obtain a positive identification.
The commander of Scotland Yard’s operation nevertheless declared a Code Red, and placed a team of heavily armed officers on high alert, authorising them to intercept a subject and take a critical shot if the subject did not comply with a challenge.
Officers trailed Mr de Menezes as he boarded a bus to the Stockwell tube station.
Contrary to subsequent reports, he was not wearing a bulky coat or carrying a bag.
The leaked material includes photographs of Mr de Menezes’ bloodstained body inside the train carriage, from which it can clearly be seen that he is wearing a close-fitting denim jacket and a light T-shirt.
And on arrival at the Underground station, he did not vault the ticket barriers as subsequently claimed to evade his plain-clothes pursuers.
Instead, he used his season ticket to get through the barrier, collected a free newspaper and proceeded calmly down the escalators, breaking into a run only when he saw that a train was preparing to depart.
On boarding the train, he was approached by pursuing plain-clothes police officers. One seized him while a second discharged 11 shots from a pistol at point-blank range.
A witness statement from one of the officers on the train claims that he grabbed Mr de Menezes around the body, pinioning his arms, while another officer fired at the man from a distance of about 30 centimetres.
The officer’s statement, perhaps the most damaging of all for Scotland Yard, invites the conclusion that the eight bullets that hit Mr de Menezes seven of which hit him in the head were an overreaction to a suspect who had already been overpowered.
Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair, a popular London figure who told reporters after the shooting that Mr de Menezes was challenged and refused to obey police instructions, was not available for comment yesterday.
Despite the release of closed-circuit TV footage showing the July 7 and July 21 bombing suspects, police have never released images of Mr de Menezes to support their claims that he had been wearing a bulky jacket and running from police. Scotland Yard and the Blair Government both remained silent on the revelations last night.
HOW THE EVIDENCE IS STACKING UP
“WHAT POLICE SAID v WHAT THE EVIDENCE SAYS
– Jean Charles de Menezes identified as suspect after leaving block of flats.
– Surveillance officer unable to make accurate identification because he had been relieving himself when de Menezes left.
– Wearing bulky jacket and/or belt.
– Wearing only a thin denim jacket.
– Acted suspiciously on way to Stockwell station.
– Nothing odd in his behaviour.
– Ran from police when challenged at station and refused to obey instructions.
– Challenged for first time while seated on train.
– Vaulted ticket barrier to escape.
– Did not vault. Ran only to catch train.
– Eight shots fired into him.
– Eleven shots fired, three missed (seven to head; one elsewhere).”