21 August 2005

Jean Charles de Menezes Update

£15,000..? Bloody Hell!


Met Head Defends Menezes Handling

Met Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair said it was 24 hours before he learned that a man shot dead by anti-terrorist police on the Tube was innocent.

Jean Charles de Menezes' family want him to resign for wrongly linking the shooting so soon to attempted bombings.

Sir Ian told the News of the World of his day-long ignorance. The family's lawyer expressed "incredulity" that he made statements without knowing facts.

Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott told BBC News Sir Ian had his support.

When asked if the police commissioner had his "full and unqualified confidence", Mr Prescott replied: "Yes".

He added that the results of the independent inquiry should be noted before a "proper judgement" could be made, adding that Mr Menezes' death was a "terrible tragedy".

The police commissioner said he learnt of Mr Menezes' innocence after a colleague told him words to the effect: "Houston, we have a problem".

The Brazilian electrician was shot by police at Stockwell tube station on 22 July - the day after several failed bomb attempts - when he was mistaken for one of the bombing suspects.

Later the same day Sir Ian said the shooting was "directly linked to the ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation".

Gareth Peirce, whose firm Birnberg Peirce is representing the Menezes family, said on Saturday evening: "We express incredulity that the senior police officer would have made extravagant claims from the outset without first informing themselves of the true facts and to have done anything else would have been negligent in the extreme."

The family also accuse police of not doing enough to stop misleading speculation about the shooting in the days after the attacks.

Payment offer

Leaked documents from the police investigation into the death appeared to contradict initial police and witness statements about the incident.

Scotland Yard was quoted as saying that Mr Menezes' "clothing and demeanour" added to suspicions that he was a suspected suicide bomber.

However, the leaked documents and photographs show the body of Mr Menezes, on the Tube where he was shot dead by police, wearing a denim jacket - not a bulky one as previously described.

But former Scotland Yard commander Roy Ramm has defended Sir Ian, telling BBC Radio 5 Live: "What Blair said - and he prefaced all his remarks with 'as far as I know', 'as I understand it' - was what he understood to be the truth at the time.

"It does not surprise me it took a full 24 hours to look at all that information and realise they had it wrong."

Met Police have confirmed that an offer of £15,000 has been made to the Menezes family in addition to any funeral costs or travel expenses.

It stressed that it was intended to be an "ex gratia" payment, which would not affect any further compensation or legal action.

The BBC's Patrick Bartlett said the family had "reacted angrily" to the offer, made by Deputy Assistant Police Commissioner John Yates on a visit a week after the shooting, and had rejected it.

He said: "It is very clear that the whole episode has increased the anger of the family and increased their determination to see the investigation through as some kind of punishment for the officers involved."

The family, from the Brazilian town of Gonzaga, showed the letter offering the money to journalists on Saturday, denying media reports that £500,000 had been offered.

Conflicting reports

On Saturday the embattled Metropolitan Police commissioner received the support of Home Secretary Charles Clarke, who said he was "very happy with the conduct not only of Sir Ian Blair but of the whole Metropolitan police in relation to this inquiry".

In an interview on Radio 4's Talking Politics show on Saturday Sir Ian said the shooting had to be put into context.

"Tragic as the death of Mr Menezes is, and we have apologised for it and we take responsibility for it, it is one death out of 57."

Earlier, Jenny Jones of the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA),an independent authority that scrutinises the work of the London police force, said police should have "cleared up" any rumours about the shooting.

Security levels

Brazilian investigators are to fly to London this week for talks with the Independent Police Complaints Commission to clarify the conflicting reports.

When asked about the current security level in the UK, Mr Prescott told BBC News: "We have different levels of security but the serious threat is all the time.

"We are on a high level of alert, which we need to be. We need the public to remain ever vigilant."

He added that he had travelled on the Tube and was particularly aware of the heightened sense of awareness on the underground network.

Story from BBC NEWS:

Published: 2005/08/21 10:11:13 GMT



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