By Kathy Mc Mahon and Fintan Dunne
26th July, 2005 4pmET
British police may have concocted an elaborate tale of a stakeout on a Brazilian man they shot and killed last Friday, in order to hide an even more unpalatable truth. That they had just killed a person whose only suspicious act was to run for a train.
Jean Charles de Menezes had earlier left his Tulse Hill flat before being shot on the floor of a train carriage which was set to depart Stockwell Tube station.
Let's just discount the police version of events for a moment and assume that Mr. Menezes was entirely unknown to police before he was gunned to death. Simply someone running to catch a train which could be heard pulling into the platform area below.
One eyewitness account supports the proposition that just a single policeman observed Mr. Menezes and then raised the alarm to a three-person special police team on duty in the station. Rob Lowe, from Balham, saw the incident from inside the carriage:
"The tube was stationary and then a man came on who I presume now to be a plain-clothes policeman, but at the time I didn't know who he was," he said.Lee Ruston, 32, a construction company director who was on the platform, said that he did not hear any of the three shout "police":
"He was looking quite shifty, getting up and sitting back down again. I felt a bit awkward around him. And then he seemed to shout at some people on the other platform, who then all came rushing. The tube suddenly filled up with loads of people running down to the end of my carriage. "Then I heard probably four or five loud bangs and saw a bit of smoke " [Source] [also]
Mr Ruston remembers one of the Scotland Yard team screaming into a radio as they were running. [Source]That last detail about "screaming" police is puzzling. The whole objective of gunning a suicide bomb suspect quickly to death is to prevent him triggering a bomb. Officers on a mission to stop a detonation would have been more stealthy and composed.
That account of police "screaming" is more consistent with a hysterical police response to a threat to which they had only just been alerted. A response which led them to kill Mr. Menezes.
But if so, they would soon have discovered their catastrophic error. It would be a disaster in public relations terms. So what to do?
What unquestionably did happen then is that senior police officers boosted the image of the force as defenders of the public, by insisting the victim of the shooting was definitely linked to their ongoing antiterrorist operations.
Was that a lie to give them time to construct a scenario which made it more acceptable that they had responded in the way they did?
After discovering the deceased man's address from identifying papers in his clothing, it would be a simple matter to retrospectively claim it was a location they already had under surveillance.
"Police claim they had been watching a redbricked block of flats in Scotia Road after the address had been found in documents left in one of the abandoned rucksacks from the abortive attacks last Thursday." [Source]Which is hardly reassuring for those already skeptical about the actual source of those rucksacks.
In any event, this reported account of that surveillance shows that the team which killed Mr. Menezes was not the same as those who allegedly followed him to the station:
"The bus journey was slow... When it was obvious that he was getting off at the stop nearest Stockwell Tube station, the team on the bus alerted a three-man team of marksmen to move in. As Mr. Menezes waited to cross the busy main road, the decision was taken at Scotland Yard that he must not be allowed to get to the platform. The marksmen were told: if you think he has explosives under his coat and he fails to heed shouted warnings, then you must shoot to kill." [Source]Suppose that reported communication from a surveillance team never took place, and the three were responding instead to a local alert of a man running which was unconnected with any prior surveillance.
You might think from this London Times report that Mr. Menezes was in no hurry at all:
"The bus journey was slow, as on any other Friday morning, but Mr Menezes seemed to be in no hurry." [Source]But the well-founded account below contradicts that spin on events:
"Mr D'Avila, a builder from Sao Paulo who had known Mr de Menezes for two years, spoke to his friend minutes before he stepped off the bus at Stockwell Tube station... He said he was going to be late because of the bus. Then he phoned again to say he was going to be really late because of the Tube. After that, I rang him several times but he didn't answer." [Source]So it is entirely plausible that Mr. Mendez ran into the station to catch an arriving tube and avoid being even more delayed; and that he was blissfully unaware he was about to be killed as he bounded into the imminently departing carriage --just as do many eager commuters on a daily basis.
Now let's turn to two eyewitness accounts which contradict our unofficial version of events and paint a completely different picture of Mr. Menezes. Accounts which were very widely reported -via the BBC- in the immediate aftermath of the incident. One on BBC News 24 and another on BBC 5 Live.
First, the account by the very observant Mr. Mark Whitby.
His comprehensive account of events reads in large part as a virtual apologia for police actions:
"I was sitting on the train... I heard a load of noise, people saying, 'Get out, get down' I saw an Asian guy. He ran on to the train, he was hotly pursued by three plain clothes officers, one of them was wielding a black handgun.
"He had a baseball cap on and quite a sort of thickish coat - it was a coat you'd wear in winter, sort of like a padded jacket. He might have had something concealed under there, I don't know. But it looked sort of out of place with the sort of weather we've been having, the sort of hot humid weather.
"As [he] got onto the train I looked at his face, he looked sort of left and right, but he basically looked like a cornered rabbit, a cornered fox. He looked absolutely petrified and then he sort of tripped, but they were hotly pursuing him, [they] couldn't have been any more than two or three feet behind him at this time and he half tripped and was half pushed to the floor and the policeman nearest to me had the black automatic pistol in his left hand.
"He held it down to the guy and unloaded five shots into him.
"I saw it. He's dead, five shots, he's dead." [Source] [Source] [Source] [View Video]
Mr. Whitby assures us: "I saw it." Why labor the point? The jacket Menezes was wearing was: "padded"; "thickish"; "might have had something concealed"; "looked sort of out of place." OK, Whitby -we get the picture.
And why labor the issue of which hand the policeman was holding the gun in? That's the sort of detail often drawn out in court testimony and usually missing from impromptu eyewitness statements.
Whitby's colorful "cornered rabbit" account paints an unlikely demeanour onto Mr. Menezes. Were he a bomber, this would fit well. As we now know, he was not.
Another account which we know in retrospect to be strikingly wrong, is that by Anthony Larkin, another passenger, who said he thought the shot man had been wearing a bomb belt.
"I saw these police officers in uniform and out of uniform shouting 'get down, get down', and I saw this guy who appeared to have a bomb belt and wires coming out and people were panicking and I heard two shots being fired," he said. [Source][Source]What was Larkin using for eyes on that morning? What bomb and wires?
By the way, Larkin's account of officers shouting "get down, get down" matches the phraseology of Whitby's tale of people saying "get out, get down". Arguably, that is because both accounts are accurate in this respect. But this congruence arguably also smacks of collusion.
These widely-reported, early accounts colored our perceptions of what had happened in Stockwell tube station. As did the contemporaneous police insistence that Mr. Menezes was a person of interest to them before being killed.
What if he wasn't? What if the police's interest in where he lived, only arose after they realized they had just killed an entirely innocent Brazilian, and needed to quickly come up with some plausible justification to prevent a public relations meltdown for the London end of the War on Terror?
And we couldn't have that, now could we?
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