De Menezes 'had no reason to fear police'

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The Independent Online

A close relative of Jean Charles de Menezes told the inquest into his death today the Brazilian had no reason to fear the police.

Alex Pereira, 31, said his cousin had been stopped by police up to four times, including once on a motorcycle in Park Lane.

He said Mr de Menezes said the police were "very polite" and he was not bothered by the encounters.

Mr Pereira said: "We come from Brazil and it is very common for police to stop people there and even police carry a gun in Brazil so it does not scare us.

"Why would he be scared of the police?"

Mr Pereira, a key member of the Justice 4 Jean campaign, said the two men grew up together in a rural village in south-east Brazil.

He said Mr de Menezes was a self-taught electrician who dreamed of travelling to the United States or England.

Mr Pereira said Mr de Menezes travelled to Sao Paulo when he was 16-years-old to earn money on a chicken farm.

He said: "He was a guy that liked to learn and he fought to make life better because he came from a place where everything is very difficult.

"It has become better now but at the time it was very, very hard and since he was a little boy he studied to become an electrician."

Mr Pereira said Mr de Menezes travelled to England after he was refused a United States visa.

Once in the UK he sent money home to support his family and girlfriend Adriana who had a child from a previous relationship.

He said his cousin thought living abroad "would bring a better life for everybody".

Mr Pereira said: "He studied hard and learned English quickly. He was prepared to do any work initially.

"But he was pleased when he found work as an electrician. He was very ambitious and worked very hard but he still enjoyed life.

"He was very happy in England and I thought he would like to stay here permanently eventually."

Mr Pereira said he was shocked to learn Mr de Menezes took cocaine and did not know until after his death.

Patricia da Silva Armani said news of the shooting left their families devastated.

In a statement read to the inquest, she said her cousin called her to check she was all right after the failed July 21 bombings.

Ms Armani said: "We spoke over the phone and he told me to be careful. That was the last time I spoke to him."

She said when family members were called to Brixton police station she thought Mr de Menezes had "done something really bad".

Ms Armani said: "I thought he was in police custody and I did not realise it was the Stockwell shooting.

"When police started speaking I could not understand a lot of what was being said.

"Then I made the connection with the news. My head started spinning and my stomach was turning.

"Later we had to go and see his body in the mortuary. The news had not really sunk in.

"When I saw his body I fainted. The following days were horrific. We were staying in a hotel in Kingston arranged by police.

"I had three completely sleepless nights with a large number of news people around and the shooting constantly on the news."

Ms Armani lived with Mr de Menezes at 17 Scotia Road with another cousin, Vivian Figuierdo.

Ms Figuierdo said Mr de Menezes was "an adventurer who always wanted to push himself".

In a statement read to the inquest, she said her cousin was busy planning for the future in the days before his death.

Speaking about the aftermath of the July 21 attacks, Ms Figuierdo said Mr de Menezes also telephoned her.

She said: "I felt quite scared. I felt that London was beginning to become a dangerous place to live. I was wondering where we should live.

"Jean said we needed to pray and hope not to be in the wrong place at the wrong time.

"That was in fact the last conversation I had with him."

Ms Figuierdo also revealed Mr de Menezes was stopped and searched at Brixton Tube station about a month before his death.

She said Mr de Menezes was carrying a rucksack full of tools on his way to work when he was stopped by a police dog handler.