/ 18 August 2005

Deadly bungle

The Brazilian shot dead by police on a tube train in mistake for a suicide bomber had already been overpowered by a surveillance officer before he was killed, according to secret documents revealed this week.

It also emerged in the leaked documents that early allegations that he was running from police at the time of the shooting were untrue.

Relatives and the dead man’s legal team expressed shock and outrage at the revelations. Scotland Yard has continued to justify a shoot-to-kill policy.

Jean Charles de Menezes died after being shot on board a tube train at Stockwell station in south London on July 22, the morning after the failed bomb attacks in the city.

But the evidence given to the Independent Police Complaints Commission by police officers and eyewitnesses and leaked to ITV News shows that, far from leaping a ticket barrier and fleeing from police, as was initially reported, he was filmed on CCTV calmly entering the station and picking up a free newspaper before boarding the train.

But the revelation that will prove most uncomfortable for Scotland Yard was that the 27-year-old electrician had already been restrained by a surveillance officer before being shot eight times, seven times in the head and once in the shoulder.

The documents reveal that a member of the surveillance team, who sat nearby, grabbed De Menezes before he was shot: ”I heard shouting, which included the word ‘police’, and turned to face the male in the denim jacket.

”He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 [firearms squad] officers … I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting … I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage.”

The leaked documents and pictures showed the failures in the police operation from the minute De Menezes left home to travel to the tube station.

A surveillance officer admitted in a witness statement that he was unable to positively identify De Menezes as a suspect because the officer had been relieving himself when the Brazilian walked out of the front door of the block of flats where he lived.

The police were on a high state of alert because of the July 7 and 21 bombings, and had been briefed that they may be called upon to carry out new tactics — shooting dead suspected suicide bombers to avoid another atrocity.

The investigation report states that the firearms unit had been told that ”unusual tactics” might be required if they ”were deployed to intercept a subject and there was an opportunity to challenge, but if the subject was non-compliant, a critical shot may be taken”.

But it now appears that, contrary to earlier claims, De Menezes was oblivious to the stakeout operation.

On the morning of July 22, police officers were in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill, watching a property they believed contained one or more of the would-be bombers.

One firearms officer is quoted as saying: ”The current strategy around the address was as follows: no subject coming out of the address would be allowed to run and that an interception should take place as soon as possible away from the address trying not to compromise it.”

But the report shows there was a failure in the surveillance operation and officers wrongly believed De Menezes could have been one of two suspects who they thought were in the building. The leaked papers state: ”De Menezes was observed walking to a bus stop and then boarded a bus, travelling to Stockwell tube station.

”During the course of this, his description and demeanour were assessed and it was believed he matched the identity of one of the suspects wanted for terrorist offences … the information was passed through the operations centre and gold command made the decision and gave appropriate instructions that De Menezes was to be prevented from entering the tube system. At this stage the operation moved to code red tactics, [and] responsibility was handed over to CO19.”

CCTV footage shows De Menezes walked calmly through the barriers at the station, before going down the escalator. Only then did he run to catch the train.

A man sitting opposite him is quoted as saying: ”Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me. He pointed the gun at the right-hand side of the man’s head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man’s head when the first shot was fired.”

A senior police source told The Guardian the leaked documents and statements gave an accurate picture of what was known about the shooting, and the mistakes that led up to it.

Asad Rehman, spokesperson for the De Menezes family campaign, called for a public inquiry. ”This was not an accident,” he said. ”It was serious neglect.” — Â