Letters reveal rows between police chief and mayor

Sir Ian Blair demanded retraction of Boris Johnson’s ‘trigger-happy’ comment

Joe Churcher,Pa
Tuesday 27 January 2009 01:00 GMT

The blazing rows between London Mayor Boris Johnson and the former Metropolitan Police commissioner Sir Ian Blair were laid bare last night by the publication of a series of previously private letters.

Sir Ian Blair wrote to the then mayoral candidate in November 2007 after being incensed by Mr Johnson's public suggestion that armed officers who mistook innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes for a terrorist and shot him dead could have been "too trigger-happy". Sir Ian demanded a retraction of the "outrageous" comments but was strongly rebuffed.

"I consider your comments that it could be argued that MPS (Metropolitan Police Service) officers are 'trigger happy' to be outrageous. I would remind you that out of over 10,000 potential firearms incidents attended by the MPS in the past year, shots were fired on only three occasions," he wrote to Mr Johnson, in a letter obtained by Channel 4 News under the Freedom of Information Act.

"I would suggest in the strongest terms that you withdraw your remarks." But an unrepentant Mr Johnson, who was elected the capital's Mayor months later, refused, replying: "I have absolutely no intention of doing so. It is hard to think of any other description of a catastrophe in which a completely innocent man ends up with seven bullets in his head."

While the officers involved had been "personally extremely brave", he said, no one had answered the question of "why the hell" a suspected suicide bomber was allowed to take two buses and then get on an Underground train before being shot dead.

In a final response, Sir Ian said he was "very, very surprised" that he would not take back the comment, which was "offensive to the men and women who routinely have to face some of the most dangerous situations within policing, to protect the Londoners they serve", he said.

Sir Ian Blair was not available to comment yesterday. A spokesman for Boris Johnson said that the Mayor "stood by" his comments.

Last month, a jury returned an open verdict at the inquest into the death of 27-year-old Mr de Menezes. The jury rejected police accounts of the shooting and the Scotland Yard argument that the killing was lawful.

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