Inquiry into Met chief's words after Tube shooting

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The Independent Online

Britain's senior police chief is to be investigated over complaints that he gave misleading information about the fatal shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician wrongly suspected of being a suicide bomber.

The conduct of Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, and his staff, will be examined by the Independent Police Complaints Commission. It follows a complaint by Mr Menezes's family who claimed that Sir Ian and the Met misled them and the public immediately after the shooting.

Mr Menezes, 27, was shot at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July, after being mistakenly identified as one of four suicide bombers who failed to detonate their devices the previous day.

On the day of the shooting, Sir Ian told a news conference that, as far as he understood, the man shot dead was directly linked to the anti-terrorist operation after the failed attacks.

Scotland Yard was also quoted as saying that Mr Menezes's "clothing and demeanour" added to suspicions that he was a suspected suicide bomber.

Sir Ian is expected to argue that the comments were made in good faith and were based on information provided by his officers. He is also likely to say that the Met was unable to correct the mistakes because the IPCC had instructed the force not to comment further on the case while it investigated the shooting.

If Sir Ian, or any of his officers, are found to have knowingly made misleading statements they will be under pressure to resign.

A statement from the IPCC said the inquiry would be separate from the current investigation into the fatal shooting. The two firearms officers who shot dead Mr Menezes are not expected to face criminal charges. They are understood to have claimed that they honestly believed the suspect was a suicide bomber and they used reasonable force to prevent him detonating any device.

Commenting on the new inquiry, Nick Hardwick, head of the IPCC, said: "We will treat this investigation in the same way as any other, although I have asked a panel of three IPCC commissioners to oversee it.

"We have not made any assumptions and, for the sake of Jean Charles's family, officers within the Met and the public at large, will try to establish the truth in an impartial, proportionate and timely way."

Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, speaking on behalf of the Met, said the force would co-operate fully with the investigation. He said: "We wish to make it clear that whilst the further complaints raised clearly involve the Commissioner, they are not solely about him.

"They specifically ask that the IPCC investigate where any misleading accounts relating to the tragic events of 22 July originated from, and how and why they were put into the public domain. The brief statements issued by the Met following the shooting are a matter of public record."

He said police apologised for any inaccuracies privately to the family 48 hours after the incident.

Mr Menezes's cousin, Alex Pereira, said: "This is fantastic news and a great victory for our campaign."

In a statement, the Menezes Family Campaign said: "Sir Ian Blair, as head of the Metropolitan Police, bears ultimate responsibility for the Menezes killing and that he deliberately tried to cover up what really happened after Jean's death. We believe these 'off the record' briefings were attempts to mislead the public and cover up the fact that the police had killed an innocent man."