Police marksman: 'I thought we were going to die'

Firearms officer tells inquest of the moment he fired six shots into the head of innocent Brazilian on Tube train
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The Independent Online

A police marksman said yesterday that he shot Jean Charles de Menezes six times in the head because he believed that he, his colleagues and members of the public would die in a suicide bomb explosion if he did not.

The firearms officer, known only by the codename C2, told the jury at the inquest into the death of the 27-year-old Brazilian electrician that he killed him believing that he was a suicide bomber.

Asked by Nicholas Hilliard QC, counsel for the inquest, why he had discharged so many shots, the officer replied: "At the time I fired I believed that I, and everyone else, was about to die. I was convinced this male was a suicide bomber.

"I had an honestly held belief that, unless I acted immediately, that I, and other persons present, were about to die. I formed the opinion that the only option was to shoot this male in the head and kill him instantly to prevent any detonation." The officer went on to explain that his weapon jammed while he was shooting Mr de Menezes and he had to reload the gun.

C2 was one of two officers who shot Mr de Menezes on a London Underground Tube train at Stockwell station on 22 July 2005. C2, who had never previously fired at anyone in a 17-year firearms career, added: "I ran forward, reached over the top of the surveillance officer and pushed him down. I shouted 'armed police' and held my handgun to the head of the subject and fired."

The officer said that he had only declared that he was armed after deciding to kill Mr de Menezes. Asked why he hadn't shouted this earlier he said: "I realised it was late but there were members of the public and they should know [we were] police officers."

It was not until noon the next day that C2 learnt that the person he shot was innocent. Addressing the De Menezes family at yesterday's inquest, he added: "This is very distressing for me. I respect and understand how difficult it is for them. I would like to say that I am a father and that if he were my son, I would be utterly devastated. And I would like to offer my condolences."

When cross-examined by Michael Mansfield QC, representing the De Menezes family, C2 said that he would not have done anything differently.

He added: "It is wrong because I killed an innocent man but at the time I cannot see how I could have done anything differently with what I believed to be true at that time."

C2 also told the inquest that his mind had been made up to kill the Brazilian after hearing a radio transmission from a surveillance officer who told him, "this is definitely our man". But Mr Mansfield told the jury that the surveillance officer did not recall saying this and the lawyer accused C2 of lying.

The officer responded: "I have never been so brutally honest in my life. I am not lying, sir. That is what I heard." Mr Mansfield also alleged that C2 had repeated phrases used by the other officer who fired on the Brazilian, C12, when he gave evidence to the inquest. C2 denied this.

After yesterday's evidence Mr de Menezes's mother, Maria, who was in court to listen to proceedings, accused the officer of being "very cold", adding: "He may have apologised but it certainly didn't seem like he meant it. It was not a heartfelt apology, I could tell.

"His evidence felt like he was reading from a script, it was a prepared statement. I did not feel any remorse from him."

"Their words have felt like a heavy load bearing down on me," she added. "But I force myself to stay and listen."

The inquest at the Oval, south London, continues.