August 18, 2005

UK police “resisted” probe on Brazilian’s shooting

By Kate Holton

LONDON (Reuters) - London police chiefs initially tried to
block an inquiry by the force's independent watchdog into the
police shooting of a Brazilian they mistakenly thought was a
suicide bomber, the supervisory body said on Thursday.

Police shot electrician Jean Charles de Menezes eight times
on an underground train on July 22, the day after four attacks
on London's transport system failed when bombs did not explode.
Two weeks earlier four suicide bombers had killed 52 commuters.

"The Metropolitan Police Service initially resisted us
taking on the investigation but we overcame that," John Wadham,
deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission
(IPCC), said in a strongly worded statement.

"This dispute has caused delay in us taking over the
investigation but we have worked hard to recover the lost
ground," he said.

The watchdog's statement will heap further pressure on
London police chief Ian Blair, who first said the shooting was
linked to the investigation into the failed bombings and that
de Menezes was challenged and refused to obey police orders.

Leaked police and eyewitness accounts obtained by ITV News
cast doubt on his version of events.

Lawyers representing de Menezes' family accused Blair of
delaying and trying to block an official inquiry, saying he
asked the government for an internal police investigation into
the killing rather than hand over the probe to the IPCC.

"Why the delay? What were the police doing investigating
themselves when that was not their role?" asked Gareth Peirce,
a lawyer working for the family.

"What we have asked the IPCC to find out is how much of it
is incompetence and negligence, including gross negligence, and
how much of it may be something more sinister," Peirce said.


Initial accounts said the Brazilian, 27, was dressed
suspiciously in a heavy coat on a warm day, fled armed
officers, vaulted over ticket barriers and ran on to a train.

But the documents leaked to ITV indicated statements from
police and other eyewitnesses showed he was not wearing a
padded jacket, had walked calmly through the station and
stopped to collect a free newspaper before sitting down in the

"Sir Ian Blair should resign. The lies that appear to have
been put out ... are clearly wrong. And nobody has stepped in
to correct the lies," said Harriet Wistrich, another lawyer for
the de Menezes family.

The Metropolitan Police would not comment on Thursday but
issued a statement on Wednesday saying it had merely written to
the government to "clarify" the role of the IPCC and then
agreed to hand over the investigation.

Wadham said the watchdog aimed to complete investigations
in three to six months.

The IPCC began work last year with new powers to improve
the handling of complaints against the police in England and
Wales. The Menezes shooting is its most high-profile case to

A fatal shooting case must be handed over by the police
force involved by the end of business on the working day after
the incident, but in the Menezes case the IPCC was not handed
the police file until five days later, an IPCC spokesman said.

"All I can say to you is that this has not occurred in the
five other fatal shootings we have been involved with," he
said, when asked about the abnormal delay.

Peirce said de Menezes' parents and brother were hoping to
visit Britain next week to meet the police.