Menezes jury rejects police claim of lawful killing

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The Independent Online

A jury rejected the police account of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes as the Brazilian's family branded his inquest a "whitewash".

After returning an open verdict today, the 10 jurors rejected a string of claims made by officers about the events leading up to Mr de Menezes being killed.

In a damning indictment, they dismissed claims by firearms officer C12 that he shouted "armed police" before opening fire.

The jury also disputed that 27-year-old Mr de Menezes had walked towards officers before he was killed.

The jurors concluded that six police failings caused or contributed to the innocent man's death.

Firearms officers shot Mr de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station in south London on July 22, 2005, after mistaking him for failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman.

As the jury returned its verdict after its sixth day of deliberations, the Menezes family accused coroner Sir Michael Wright of "presiding over a complete whitewash".

In a stinging attack on the coroner, they said he "failed on every count" during proceedings.

A family statement, released through the Justice4Jean campaign group, said: "After three months of evidence, 100 witnesses and millions of pounds, the coroner, Sir Michael Wright, has presided over a complete whitewash.

"He has failed on every count of the purpose of an inquest investigation."

After recording an open verdict, the jurors, who began considering their verdict at 2.40pm last Thursday, ruled the following:

* Firearms officer C12 did not shout the words "armed police" before opening fire.

* Mr de Menezes stood up from his seat before a surveillance officer, known as Ivor, grabbed him in a bear-hug.

* But the Brazilian did not move towards officer C12 before he was seized by Ivor.

They also concluded that six factors caused his death:

* A failure to obtain and provide better photographic images of the terror suspect Hussain Osman for the surveillance team.

* A failure by the police to ensure that Mr de Menezes was stopped before he reached public transport.

* The fact that the views of the surveillance officers regarding identification were not accurately communicated to the command team and the firearms officers.

* The fact that the position of the cars containing the firearms officers was not accurately known to the command team as the firearms officers were approaching Stockwell Station.

* There were significant shortcomings in the communications system as it was operating on the day between the various police teams on the ground and with New Scotland Yard.

* A failure to conclude, at the time, that surveillance officers should still be used to carry out the stop of Mr de Menezes at Stockwell Station even after it was reported that specialist firearms officers could perform the stop.

But they found that the following two factors did not play a part in his death.

* The general difficulty in providing an identification of the man under surveillance in the time available and in the circumstances after he had left the block at Scotia Road.

* The innocent behaviour of Mr de Menezes which increased the suspicions of some officers.

The jury of five women and five men could not decide whether pressure on the Metropolitan police in the wake of the suicide and attempted terror attacks in July 2005 caused or contributed to his death.

The family's legal team confirmed a judicial appeal against the omission of an unlawful killing verdict was ongoing.

In a new interview his mother, Maria Otone de Menezes, said: "Justice has not been done yet."

She also spoke of her belief that some officers lied to the inquest and called for the resignation of Cressida Dick, the senior policewoman who led the operation that ended in her son's death.

It can be revealed now that the family resolved to have nothing more to do with the inquest and withdrew their legal team after losing a High Court battle to change elements of the terms of the verdicts available to the jury. An appeal to introduce unlawful killing as an option was adjourned.

Proceedings were delayed by half a day by chaotic scenes in and outside court just before the jurors retired last week to consider their verdict.

Three of Mr de Menezes's cousins stood up in the courtroom and revealed T-shirts displaying the message: "Your legal right to decide - unlawful killing verdict."

As the verdict was returned, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) confirmed it would carry out a review.

A statement from the watchdog said: "The IPCC will now review the evidence to see if there are any new issues to consider."

Cheers were heard from Justice4Jean campaigners in the annex at the Oval cricket ground, south London, as the foreman revealed that the jury rejected police claims that the killing was lawful.

The coroner said he was preparing a report following proceedings when he would make his recommendations public.

He added: "It is only right that these proceedings conclude with me expressing sincere condolences to the family of Mr de Menezes.

"On any view in this case, this was a tragic and terrible event, the killing of an entirely innocent young man."

Relatives were not in court for today's verdict.

Responding to the evidence heard at the inquest, Mrs de Menezes, 63, said: "Police officers made a lot of mistakes. There were a lot of failures on their part.

"However, the one who was in command was, in my opinion, the one who made the biggest mistake because she was supposed to be in command of something and whatever she did, she did it wrong."

Mr de Menezes's brother, Giovani da Silva, 36, added: "We will carry on fighting because what we want is justice."

The inquest at the Oval cricket ground in south London heard details of a series of mistakes made by officers in the hours leading up to the fatal shooting.

For the first time the public was given a full account of the incident from key witnesses on board the Underground train where Mr de Menezes was killed.

The Metropolitan Police was under huge pressure after terrorists first murdered 52 innocent people in London on July 7, 2005 and then launched further failed attacks on the capital a fortnight later.

On July 22, the day after the failed second attack, a massive manhunt was under way to find Osman and the other on-the-run bombers amid fears they could attempt to strike again.

Osman's gym card, found in a rucksack abandoned in the attack on Shepherd's Bush Tube station on July 21, led police to a block of flats in Scotia Road in Tulse Hill, south London.

Mr de Menezes, an electrician from a poor Brazilian family who had come to the UK in 2002 to make a better future for himself, was living in the same building with two cousins.

On the morning of July 22, he apparently overslept and did not leave the house until 9.34am, by which time he was late for a job in Kilburn, north London.

The Brazilian jumped on a Number 2 bus and transferred to a Northern Line Underground train at Stockwell station.

But a surveillance officer - who was urinating into a plastic container at the time - had watched him come out of the block of flats and judged that he might be Osman.

Police followed Mr de Menezes all the way to Stockwell, at which point Ms Dick gave the order that he should be stopped before he got onto a train.

At 10.06am the Brazilian was shot dead by police marksmen using hollow-point bullets that killed him instantly.

Surveillance officers on the ground never positively identified Mr de Menezes as Osman, but commanders at New Scotland Yard believed they did.

The inquest heard dramatic evidence from the two police marksmen - who were given anonymity and the code names C2 and C12 - who fired the fatal shots.

C12 broke down in court as he relived the moment he shot Mr de Menezes fearing he was a suicide bomber about to attempt to murder all those around him.

He said: "I did not believe I had an alternative - and if I did not act, members of the public would be killed, my colleagues would be killed and I would be killed."

Scotland Yard witnesses insisted the officers identified themselves by shouting "armed police" after boarding the train at Stockwell, but none of the civilian passengers recalled hearing this.

C2 and C12 expressed their regrets to the Menezes family during the inquest, but colleagues felt they had nothing to apologise for.

Chief Inspector Martin Rush, a senior firearms instructor who led the pair's training, said: "They should be admired but they are actually being vilified and I think that is dreadfully unfortunate."

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said: "The death of Jean Charles de Menezes was a profoundly shocking tragedy and the de Menezes family have my deepest sympathy.

"What we have learnt from the accounts of the tragic events that day reminds us all of the extremely demanding circumstances under which the police work to protect us from further terrorist attack.

"The Metropolitan Police remain in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism."

Peter Smyth, chairman of the Metropolitan Police Federation Chairman, said the firearms officers were under "great" pressure and "believed they were doing the best they could".

At the time of the incident - 15 days after the July 7 London bombings - fears of another terrorist attack were high, he said.

Mr Smyth said: "The officers had not just their own safety to consider but that of hundreds of innocent Londoners who could have become the targets of what, on the information they had available, they believed to be a terrorist who could well have been on the point of mounting an attack.

"It was on this basis they took their fateful decisions. They believed they were doing the very best they could."

The jury of five men and five women came to a majority of eight to two in delivering their open verdict.

Of the remaining 12 questions, the jury were unanimous on all but two of them.