Sir Ian Blair 'trying to rewrite history'

De Menezes family attacks former Met chief for praising Stockwell officers in book
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The Independent Online

The family of Jean Charles de Menezes have accused the former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair of "trying to rewrite history" with his autobiography, in which he praises the actions of the two armed officers who shot dead the Brazilian electrician.

Extracts from Sir Ian's book, Policing Controversy, appeared in a Sunday newspaper yesterday. In passages referring to the day Mr de Menezes was killed in Stockwell Tube station in south London, Sir Ian said the death was due to "a ghastly combination of circumstances". He added that, had Mr de Menezes been a terrorist, the officers who killed him – codenamed Charlie 2 and Charlie 12 – would have been awarded medals for bravery.

He wrote: "Given what they thought they were dealing with, Charlie 2 and Charlie 12 ... should each have been awarded the George Medal. Instead they live for the rest of their lives with the knowledge that they took part in the killing of an entirely innocent man."

Yasmin Khan, a social justice and race relations lawyer who runs the Justice4Jean campaign on behalf of Mr de Menezes' family, said: "Ian Blair has always had quite an evasive relationship with the truth and these extracts emphasise that. He seems to be trying to rewrite history because a lot of what he says flies in the face of what the jury at the inquest said."

Sir Ian wrote that "the officers were adamant that he [Mr de Menezes] kept coming towards them, with his hands in front of him." But in a questionnaire given out at Mr de Menezes' inquest last December, the jury agreed that Mr de Menezes did not move towards the officers before being shot. It was a crucial point, as the officers had cited it as a key reason for deciding to kill him.

Ms Khan said that Mr de Menezes' parents in Brazil were not yet aware of the book, but that the extracts had been seen by his remaining relatives in the UK. She added: "We are all shocked that Ian Blair is somehow trying to resurrect some kind of respectability. Everyone just wishes he would leave it alone. It is quite insulting to bring it all up again."

Since resigning in December last year after the London Mayor Boris Johnson forced him out, Sir Ian has refused to speak publicly about his controversial reign in charge of Britain's biggest police force. His book is widely seen as his opportunity to set the record straight on aspects of his tenure.

In the extracts, published by the Mail on Sunday, he also discusses the 7/7 terror attacks in London, 9/11 and his reasons for joining the police force. He reveals that on 11 September 2001 he sat in a meeting "open-mouthed" as, fearing that planes which had activated distress signals were due to attack Britain, the then Prime Minister Tony Blair outlined plans for military jets to intercept the aircraft. And he recalls how, on 7/7, the then Home Secretary Charles Clarke turned to him outside Scotland Yard and said: "Ian, find the fuckers."

The serialisation was said to come as a surprise to Sir Ian's former colleagues at Scotland Yard, some of whom were not made aware of the publication until late on Saturday. However, unlike Andy Hayman, the former assistant commissioner in charge of anti-terror, Sir Ian has not yet attacked any of his former colleagues. In his book, Mr Hayman described Sir Ian as "distant and aloof" and criticised his media-handling in the aftermath of the de Menezes incident.

But Sir Ian praises his former deputy and the now commissioner, Sir Paul Stephenson, saying that he was "very well supported" by Sir Paul in the aftermath of 7/7. He also describes Mr Hayman as "particularly involved".

Coded attack: Blair on Boris

*Sir Ian describes how he attended Oxford University which, he says was "struggling to shake off a continuing and unfortunate aristocratic reputation." He adds: "There was a minor but irritating streak of upper-class nastiness, of which the now famous Bullingdon Club was only one example." It is perhaps worth noting that one of the Bullingdon Club's most illustrious ex-members is a certain Boris Johnson, the Mayor of London and the man who, last October, forced Sir Ian to resign from the Met.