Sir Ian Blair, the Commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, was “almost totally uninformed” of events after the shooting of an innocent Brazilian who was mistaken for a terrorist suspect, an inquiry found yesterday.
The investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which lasted two years and cost £300,000, found one person culpable over the mishandling of emerging information about Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, who was shot seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube station on 22 July 2005.
It accused Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, the head of counter-terrorism operations, of “misleading the public” by trying to hide the fact that the dead man was not a suspect of the 21 July suicide bombing plot. His actions, says the report, “cause us serious concerns”.
The report reveals that Mr Hayman had briefed crime reporters on the day of the shooting that the dead man was not one of the 21 July suspects. However, that information was “deliberately withheld” from a press release he helped to write later on. The report states: “Assistant Commissioner Hayman chose to mislead the public by his actions.”
A bullish Sir Ian said the report showed that “despite much speculation to the contrary, I did not lie to the public. The IPCC describes me, when I left New Scotland Yard on the evening of 22 July as ‘being almost totally uninformed’. As far as the shot man was concerned, I knew my officers were conducting inquiries expeditiously… I neither believe that my senior colleagues let me down, nor that my position on that night was unreasonable.”
But the family of Mr Menezes claimed the police had “got away with murder” as they denounced the IPCC findings as a whitewash. It was, they said, “unbelievable” that the Commissioner was unaware of what had happened. Relatives also pointed to a passage in the report which established that Mr Menezes was not given a proper chance to protest his innocence. The police had stated that he was challenged and warned before being shot but that was untrue.
Patricia Armani da Silva, a cousin, said: “No one has been held responsible for anything, no one is going to be prosecuted. The police have been allowed to get away with murder. We are very disappointed.”
The inquiry presented an extraordinary picture of chaos, confusion and rumour on the day Mr Menezes was shot. A number of senior officers at Scotland Yard began to realise within hours that an innocent man had been killed, as did officers unconnected with the case and even some off-duty colleagues. Yet Sir Ian was said to have been kept out of the loop of “crucial information” about the identity of Mr Menezes until the next morning.
Mr Menezes, an electrician from Sao Paulo, was killed just after 10am. His wallet was later searched and revealed his Brazilian identification. The report says that, within minutes, news of that reached the Commissioner’s office and his chief of staff, Caroline Murdoch. However, at 3.30pm, Sir Ian told a press conference that the shooting was linked to the “ongoing and expanding” investigation into the 21 July plot.
In the course of the afternoon, a group of officers watching cricket at Lord’s were aware, they told the inquiry, that a “terrible mistake” had been made. Among them was Deputy Assistant Commissioner John Yates, who was then the superior to Commander Cressida Dick, the officer in charge of the operation when Mr Menezes died.
At 6.30pm the Home Office was informed of Mr Menezes’s identity. But, the inquiry continues, when Sir Ian asked a senior officer, Detective Chief Superintendent Maxine De Brunner, about the dead man at 7pm he was told that identification had still not been established.
In the News of the World, in August 2005, Sir Ian said: “The key component was that, at the time, and indeed for the next 24 hours or so, I and everybody who advised me believed that the person who was shot was a suicide bomber.”
Members of the IPCC yesterday expressed surprise that the Commissioner had apparently failed to find out about the identification issue from his senior officers for so long after the shooting.
Timetable of a tragedy
10.06am – Jean Charles de Menezes, right, is shot dead by police at Stockwell Underground station.
1.00pm – Mr de Menezes’s mobile phone is found to contain names of Latin rather than Arabic or Asian friends and family.
1.55pm – At a meeting with Sir Ian Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown says he does not know whether the shot man was a suspect.
2.47pm – The wallet recovered from the scene is found to contain Brazilian documents.
3.10pm – Sir Ian Blair’s own staff officers are told of the contents of the wallet and given a name.
Shortly after 3.10pm – Both Caroline Murdoch and Moir Stewart on Sir Ian’s staff, are told about the discoveries in Mr de Menezes’s wallet.
Just before 3.30pm – Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick claims he is told by one of Sir Ian’s staff officers: “We’ve shot a Brazilian tourist.”
3.30pm – Sir Ian tells a press conference that the shooting was directly connected to an “ongoing and expanding anti-terrorist operation”.
4.30pm – Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman briefs a journalists that the victim is not one of the 21 July bombers.
5.00pm – Andy Hayman tells a management meeting attended by Sir Ian that there are media reports that the shot man is not one of the 21 July bombers. But he fails to tell them that is because he has just briefed the members of the press to that effect.
6.30pm – The Home Office and Foreign Office provide Mr de Menezes’s identity, subject to formal confirmation.
6.44pm – A police press release, approved by Andy Hayman, states that it is “not yet clear” whether the shot man is one of the 21 July bombers.
Approx 9.30pm – Senior detectives are told Mr de Menezes is not thought to be linked to the events of 21 July.
11.37pm – A Met press release says it is still not clear if the shot man is linked to the 21 July bomb attempts.
10.15am – Sir Ian is told the shot man is a Brazilian national, unconnected to terrorism.
4.52pm – The Met tells the media that the man shot dead is not connected to the 21 July attacks. But a press release still maintains that his “clothing and behaviour” added to surveillance officers’ suspicions.
* Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, right, “misled the public” and the Commissioner Sir Ian Blair over the dead man’s identity.
* Sir Ian Blair was kept in the dark about the tragic mistake for 24 hours.
* The Commissioner “did not wilfully mislead the public” when he said the killing was part of a terrorist operation.
* Other senior officers knew an innocent man had been killed – even off-duty officers at a cricket match.
* There were “serious weaknesses” in Scotland Yard’s handling of information after the shooting.
The men under pressure
* Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, head of specialist operations, including counter-terrorism, is said by the IPCC to have misled Sir Ian Blair and the public. On the afternoon of the shooting, he briefed crime reporters that the dead man was not a terror suspect, but shortly afterwards “deliberately withheld” the information from a meeting chaired by the Commissioner.
* Sir Ian Blair, Metropolitan Police Commissioner, cleared of wilfully misleading the public when he said the shooting was “directly linked to the ongoing anti-terrorist operation”. The IPCC concluded he was not told of Mr Menezes’ innocence until the next day.
* Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown, now retired, was in charge of operations on 22 July. Rebuked for an “error of judgment” in failing to keep Sir Ian fully informed.
* Chief Superintendant Moir Stewart, the Commissioner’s staff officer, did not pass on information about Mr Menezes to Sir Ian. The IPCC said he should be given management advice.
* Brian Paddick, who is now retired and was Deputy Assistant Commissioner at the time, did not pass on information from Sir Ian’s staff as ‘it was their responsibility’.