Met chief kept in dark over De Menezes
Senior officers criticised for failing to tell boss the wrong man had been shot
Monday February 19, 2007
An official report into Scotland Yard's killing of Jean Charles de Menezes will strongly criticise the force, branding as "incomprehensible" the 24-hour delay in telling Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan police's chief commissioner, that the wrong man had been shot.
The Guardian has learned that the still-secret report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission finds that senior Scotland Yard staff feared within hours that an innocent man had been shot but did not tell their boss, Britain's most senior police officer. Mr de Menezes, a Brazilian, was shot dead at 10am July 22 2005 after officers mistook him for a terrorist.
Sir Ian has maintained he had no inkling until the following morning, some 24 hours after the shooting at Stockwell underground station in south London.
The findings will raise questions about Sir Ian's management of his force. Sources close to him fear critics will use them to try and oust him from office.
The Guardian has also learned the report, which will not be published until next month at the earliest, contains some good news for Sir Ian. The IPCC concludes that there is no evidence to support the allegation that he lied about when he knew that the shooting of Mr de Menezes had been botched.
The IPCC finds that several people at Scotland Yard on the day of the shooting said information they received that the dead man was a Brazilian national led them to fear the man killed by police was innocent. A police operation mounted outside the south London flat where Mr de Menezes lived had been designed to track a male suspect of east African origin.
One senior police source told the IPCC that by that afternoon, top officers were working on the assumption that "we got the wrong person ... we better plan around this being a mistake". Around midday on July 22, Sir Ian tried to block the IPCC from investigating, writing to the Home Office to say that he feared an independent inquiry would hamper the hunt for bombers who had tried to attack London's transport network.
Just after 3.30pm that day, Sir Ian made a series of statements at a press conference about the shooting which his staff already feared to be incorrect. "This operation was directly linked to the ongoing terrorist investigation ... the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions," Sir Ian said. That led the family of Mr de Menezes to officially complain, and also to allege the force had tried to malign the name of their loved one.
The IPCC has sent more than 21 letters to Met employees warning them that they face criticism or that their accounts are challenged by other witnesses interviewed as part of the inquiry. The IPCC was told by Brian Paddick, deputy assistant commissioner, that members of staff in the commissioner's office feared on July 22 that an innocent man had been shot. Parts of his account are disputed.
A warning letter was sent to at least one Met employee in the commissioner's office on the day of the killing: Moir Stewart, then Sir Ian's staff officer.
The IPCC makes no recommendation that Sir Ian Blair should face disciplinary action, and it has found no evidence to support allegations that he lied about what he knew and when he knew it.
The report appears to support the theory that for some reason, which it describes as "incomprehensible", those under Sir Ian did not tell him about emerging clues pointing strongly to the fact that the man who had been shot was innocent, and not a suicide bomber about to attack London's transport network. Over the last two months Sir Ian has tried to pre-empt the report's impact by announcing it had cleared him of knowingly not telling the truth, a strategy some of his closest allies fear could backfire.
Senior allies of the commissioner fear there could be enough in the report that newspapers hostile to Sir Ian could use to attempt to hound him out of office. One senior ally said: "It could still be fairly devastating. Various people had more information, that was substantive, that was not passed to the top."
Britain's most senior counter terrorism officer, Andy Hayman, has received a "tough" warning letter from the IPCC. It investigated him over alleged differences in statements he made to journalists about how confident he was that a terrorist had been shot and those made to a crisis meeting of the Met's top officers on the day of the shooting. Sources say he has written a and robust response to the IPCC warning letter, though any decision about whether he should face disciplinary action would be taken by the Metropolitan Police Authority.
The report is the second by the IPCC into the shooting. Publication of the first which examined why the Met shot the wrong man has been delayed until a criminal prosecution of the force for health and safety violations is completed.
Officers who shot De Menezes were covered in blood, inquest told
Jenny Percival and agencies
guardian.co.uk, Wednesday October 15 2008 17.25 BST
A senior firearms officer today told an inquest he "felt sorry" for the marksmen who shot Jean Charles de Menezes after finding them "covered in blood".
His voice cracking with emotion, the inspector, known as Trojan 84, told an inquest he saw the two firearms officers moments after the innocent Brazilian was shot seven times from point blank range in a tube carriage at Stockwell station, in south London.
Recalling meeting the pair in a tunnel the station, he said: "I just remember feeling sorry for them at that point.
"The reason for that was because they were covered in blood."
Trojan 84, who was at the scene relaying messages from the operations room at New Scotland Yard, described the shooting as a "tragedy".
"We thought we had caught a suicide bomber - it turned out we had killed an innocent man," he said.
De Menezes, who had been mistaken for Hussain Osman, one of the failed July 21 2005 bombers, was shot after boarding a tube train.
Trojan 84, who briefed the marksmen who shot and killed the 27-year-old, said he could not remember telling other officers that De Menezes had "launched himself" at the gunmen before they fired.
He also claimed he could not recall the details of a "brief" conversation with the pair in the wake of the incident.
Speaking from behind a screen as he gave evidence in open court for the first time, Trojan 84 admitted there was a culture of "paranoia" surrounding the incident.
He said he feared claims of "collusion" and "collaboration" in the aftermath of events, and admitted that better systems of debriefing could be in place for officers.
"When an operation is thought to be unsuccessful, people row to the shore and we are left to mop up what's left," he said. "That's why there's a paranoia."
Earlier, he said officers were ready to take a "critical" shot at De Menezes if the Metropolitan police Deputy Assistant Commissioner, Cressida Dick, was unable to make the "career-threatening decision".
"We felt that for any DSO [designated senior officer, such as Dick] to make a decision about a critical shot was a hugely difficult decision to make, and maybe career-threatening," he added.
"In relation to the critical shot, the instruction would come direct from the DSO, but what I also mentioned was that if we were able to challenge but the subject was not compliant, then a shot may be taken."
When asked whether officers were prepared to take the critical shot without word from higher up, he replied: "Yes."
"It was my job to tell the team they would be supported whatever decision they took because of the structures that were in place," he added.
The inquest heard how firearms police were not deployed on transport networks after the July 7 London bombings because officers were busy elsewhere.
Chief Inspector Vince Esposito, the senior adviser in the operations room at New Scotland Yard, said officers patrolling the underground were unarmed despite increased security fears.
Even after the failed attacks of July 21, uniformed police were not carrying weapons on the morning De Menezes was killed at Stockwell tube station, he said.
The experienced firearms officer, who joined the Metropolitan force in 1980 and helped develop Scotland Yard's anti-terror tactics, said De Menezes was shot in a "calm" and "controlled" manner.
"Everybody is human and we all get excited occasionally, but it is the training that enables us to carry out the duties as happened on this day in a calm and controlled manner," Esposito said.
He said armed intervention was used in only the most "extreme" circumstances, and De Menezes would have been shot whether or not he had been carrying a rucksack.
When asked whether De Menezes could have concealed explosives on his body or in his pockets, he replied: "It is very difficult indeed to say if he was carrying an explosive device."
The jury, at the Oval cricket ground, also in south London, was told yesterday how De Menezes was "virtually dead" from the moment he got off a bus to go to the tube station.
The inquest, due to last 12 weeks, was adjourned until tomorrow.
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