The hunt for suspects connected to Thursday's failed bomb attacks in London suffered a major setback yesterday after police admitted that a man shot dead by armed officers was not connected to the terror campaign.
The victim, a Brazilian named as Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, was shot at least five times in the head on Friday by plainclothes officers who believed he was a suicide bomber. Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, had initially claimed the dead man was "directly linked" to the attempted bombings the previous day.
It is understood the dead man, who friends say had been in the country illegally, had been under surveillance for several weeks as part of a completely unrelated investigation. Unknown to him, at least three officers from the Metropolitan Police's elite firearms unit SO19 were concealed nearby and watching his every move when he left an address in Tulse Hill, south London, some time before 10.00am on Friday.
Specially trained to deal with suicide bombers, the officers had the building under surveillance following a tip-off that a suspect from Thursday's failed bombings could be hiding there. Since the 7 July atrocities, the Met's specialist firearms officers, of which there are around 80, have been on high-alert standby.
The man's clothing and behaviour made them immediately suspicious. Despite the warm weather, he was wearing a bulky winter coat. As he walked away from the house, the plain-clothed officers followed, their Glock 17 self-loading pistols concealed.
But at some point on his journey the man realised that he was being followed and began to run towards Stockwell Tube station.
The Met says that the officers shouted a warning to the man but he carried on running down the escalators to the platform. To the horror of commuters, the officers shot him repeatedly in the head after he ran into a train.
In doing so, they were following the rules laid out under Operation Kratos, which was devised by Scotland Yard's anti-terrorist branch to deal with suicide bombers. Kratos (named after the Greek god of strength) was developed in the light of Israeli experiences of tackling suicide bombers.
Guidance to officers on the deployment of firearms was last updated by the Association of Chief Police Officers in February. Officers do not have to identify themselves before firing but it "should be considered". The advice concludes that an officer should not open fire unless "that officer is satisfied that nothing short of opening fire could protect the officer or another person from imminent danger to life or serious injury".
Questions will be asked why the suspect was allowed to reach the underground platforms at Stockwell before he was apprehended.
The shooting was witnessed by several people on the Tube carriage. One eyewitness, Mark Whitby, said: "As the man got on the train I looked at his face. He looked from left to right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit ... He looked absolutely petrified. He sort of tripped but they were hotly pursuing him and couldn't have been more than two or three feet behind him at this time.
"They unloaded five shots into him. I saw it. He's dead, five shots, he's dead."
Police hunting terror cells will be desperately hoping the incident does not alienate the very people it most needs to assist it in catching terrorists. Evidence of a network of self-sufficient bombing groups is mounting, security sources told The Independent on Sunday. And a high-ranking anti-terrorism official said a summer-long campaign of violence is expected.
The four attempted bombings at Oval, Warren Street and Shepherd's Bush Tube stations, and on the number 26 bus in Hackney share chilling similarities with the attacks on 7 July. Again, three tubes and a bus were targeted at the four points of the compass.
This weekend officers have been working around the clock examining forensic clues in the form of explosives and detonators left at the scene of the four attacks. The bus itself has been taken away for analysis.
Investigators believe that those responsible for the fatal 7 July attacks mixed their own explosives. It shows that bombmakers are considered expendable, meaning many more may have learned how to make explosive devices.
An urgent investigation is under way to establish whether the home-made explosive used in Thursday's attack was the same as that used to maim and kill London commuters. "If each cell makes its own explosives, then that will obviously make it much more difficult to go after the logistics of the operation," a security source said.
Confidence has not been raised by the contradictory accounts of the incident from the police. In the immediate aftermath, the Met said the man had come under police observation after he "had emerged from a house that was itself under observation". His "clothing and his behaviour at the station" fuelled police suspicions and he was killed after fleeing the plainclothes officers when they challenged him.
But yesterday's statement said only that the man had "emerged from a block of flats under surveillance", suggesting that he may have been entirely innocent. Later the Met again amended their account, saying the man had emerged from a house in Tulse Hill.
Additional reporting by Graham MoonieReuse content