Met chief tried to restrict investigation of killing

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A letter written by the Metropolitan Police Commissioner hours after Mr de Menezes' death, and released by the Home Office yesterday, also underlines his determination to keep the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) out of the inquiry into the shooting of the Brazilian, believed at that point to be a suicide bomber.

The correspondence is a further embarrassment for Scotland Yard, coming in a week in which Mr de Menezes' family has been in London to visit the scene of his death and be briefed on the IPCC inquiry. The family have called for Sir Ian to resign over the issue.

Writing to the Home Office on 22 July, after marksmen shot Mr de Menezes at Stockwell Tube station, wrongly believing him to be a suicide bomber, Sir Ian said revealing information to external investigators, as required under the 2002 Police Reform Act, could compromise police tactics and intelligence sources and put lives at risk. "I therefore believe that, in a fast-moving, multi-site terrorist situation, in which suicide bombers are clearly a very strong possibility, a chief officer of police should be able to suspend section 17 of the Police Reform Act 2002, which requires us to supply all information that the IPCC may require.

"The IPCC has a dual role in the sense that it, itself, is under a duty to provide as much information as it can to the complainant or to members of the deceased's family. This could put further lives at risk in these circumstances.''

The IPCC, he wrote, would be given "no access" to the scene and the investigation would be carried out by the force's Directorate of Professional Standards. While this would be "rigorous" it would be "subordinate to the needs of the counter-terrorist operation".

However, Sir Ian's attempt to pre-empt agreement to his actions by the Home Office was firmly rejected by both Sir John Gieve, the Permanent Secretary and Len Duvall, the chair of the Metropolitan Police Authority, whose letters were also released. Sir John wrote that he did not believe Section 17 could be suspended, while Mr Duvall said he was certain the IPCC would be "sensitive" to the issue of disclosure.

During a rapidly moving series of events, the IPCC also became involved in discussions and, backed by the Home Office, issued a statement on the evening of 22 July, saying that it would conduct the inquiry - although the official handover did not take place until the following Monday. By then, it had been established that Mr de Menezes was an innocent man, and the issue of releasing information to the families of terrorists had become academic.

IPCC officials were concerned that Sir Ian had attempted to overturn a key part of its work. Since independent investigation of the police was introduced in 1985, all such shootings had been referred, on a discretionary basis, to the Independent Police Complaints Authority. When the IPCC came into existence with the 2002 Act, the referral of such cases became mandatory - hence his call for a change in the law.

The letters have been released days after it was disclosed that senior Scotland Yard officers were aware on the afternoon of his death that Mr de Menezes was not a terrorist. Sir Ian, who has admitted to considering resignation over the case, was not told until 10.30am the next day.

Sir Ian has strongly denied that the letter was part of an attempted cover-up and stressed that, at the time it was written, he believed the dead man was involved in the attempt to bomb London's transport systems the previous day.