Posted by Gilmour Poincaree on December 12, 2008

December 12, 2008

by Sean O’Neill – Crime & Security Editor – Times Online



The inquest jury examining the death of Jean-Charles de Menezes has returned an open verdict – refusing to accept the idea that he was lawfully killed in a fast-moving anti-terrorist operation.

The jurors also answered a series of questions about the circumstances of Mr de Menezes’s death on board a Tube train at Stockwell, South London, in a way which rejected much of the account of the shooting given by police firearms officers.

Asked if they believed that the policemen had shouted a warning of armed police, the jury answered no. They also answered no when asked if Mr de Menezes had moved towards the officers before he was shot.

The jury had been banned by Sir Michael Wright, QC, the coroner, from considering a verdict of unlawful killing. His ruling led the de Menezes family to withdraw from the proceedings and brand the inquest “a complete whitewash”.

But the outcome of the inquest is a damaging result for the Metropolitan Police and could lead to a legal challenge to the verdict in the High Court.

The coroner said he would be preparing a report on what practices of the Metropolitan Police required changing. It will be sent to the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, the police authority and the Home Secretary and should be made public.

Sir Michael expressed his “sincere condolences” to the de Menezes family.

He said: “In any view this was a tragic and terrible event, the killing of an entirely innocent young man.”

The majority verdict of 8-2 came at the end of seven days of deliberations by the jurors, whose number was reduced from 11 to 10 earlier this week.

The inquest, held at the Oval Cricket Ground, south London, has lasted for 12 weeks and is estimated to have cost around £6million in court costs and legal fees. It heard evidence for the first time from the two armed officers who shot Mr de Menezes, 27, a Brazilian electrician.

They fired nine shots, hitting Mr de Menezes in the head seven times, after mistaking him for a suicide bomber on July 22 2005 – the day after four terrorists failed to set off suicide bombs in London then went on the run.

The officers, identified only as Charlie 12 and Charlie 2, said they had shouted “armed police” as the ran onto the Northern Line train at Stockwell, south London, and that Mr de Menezes had stood up and moved towards them aggressively. They claimed his reaction led them to shoot him because they feared he was about to detonate a bomb.

But passengers on the train said they did not hear warning shouts and did not see Mr de Menezes leave his seat. One woman claimed that the policemen appeared to be “out of control”.

During the evidence, the court heard that surveillance officers deployed to search for Hussain Osman, one of the fugitive bombers, did not have a picture of the man they were looking for. Mr de Menezes was thought to be a likeness for Osman but never positively identified as the terrorist before he was shot.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick, who was Gold Command officer in charge of the operation, told the hearing that she did not believe any officer had done anything wrong or unreasonable. She also said she feared that a similar incident could happen again.

Last year, an Old Bailey jury found the Metropolitan Police guilty of breaching health and safety law in the operation which led to Mr de Menezes’s death. The force was fined £175,000.



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