Menezes picture 'manipulated' to look like bomber

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The Independent Online

A composite photograph used on behalf of the Metropolitan Police to attempt to show the similarity between Jean Charles De Menezes and a failed suicide bomber was dishonestly manipulated to make the two men appear more alike, a court at the Old Bailey was told yesterday.

Prosecutors at the trial of the police force, which is accused of endangering the public during the botched operation that led to the death of the 27-year-old Brazilian, told jurors that they believed an image shown in court had been stretched or resized to create a misleading match between the two men.

The photograph consisted of half the face of Mr De Menezes and half the face of Hussain Osman, the bomber who attempted to blow up a train carriage at Shepherds Bush on 21 July 2005. By placing the two pictures side by side, lawyers for Scotland Yard had sought to show the difficulties that officers tracking Mr De Menezes would have faced in trying to differentiate between the men. But a forensic expert told the court that the picture of the Brazilian in the police composite appeared to have been brightened and the definition of some of his facial characteristics had been reduced.

Clare Montgomery QC, prosecuting, said that overall the image had been altered "by either stretching or resizing so the face ceases to have its correct proportions". The court was then shown an alternative composite in which the two faces have distinctly different skin tones and their mouths and noses are not aligned, unlike the original produced for the police force. Both composites were based on a photograph of Mr De Menezes taken from his 2001 identity card and a picture of Osman taken by police when he was arrested in Rome.

Mr Justice Henriques, the trial judge, said: "A serious allegation has been made that a picture has been manipulated so as to mislead." Under cross-examination, Mr George was asked whether there had been manipulation of the "primary features" of Mr De Menezes's face. He replied: "I don't believe there has been any. But making the image brighter has changed the image."

The Yard is being prosecuted under health and safety legislation for alleged "fundamental" failures that led to Mr De Menezes being shot seven times in the head on board a London Underground train the day after the failed 21 July bombings. The force denies the charge that it put the public at undue risk of danger during the surveillance operation in which the Brazilian was mistaken for Osman.

Earlier, defence lawyers were challenged by the judge over a line of questioning about Mr De Menezes's immigration status after a counterfeit stamp was found in his passport.

Mr Henriques asked Ronald Thwaites QC, representing the Yard: "He is a member of the public who is entitled to the protection of the Health and Safety at Work Act whatever his status, is he not?" The court also heard that Mr De Menezes's permission to remain in the UK would have run out on 23 July, the day after he was killed.

The prosecution closed it case and the defence is expected to open its case today.