By John Steele
Britain’s most senior policeman was under fire last night after a scathing report revealed he was deliberately kept in the dark by his senior officers after the shooting of an innocent man on the London Underground.
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, was left “almost totally uninformed” following the death of the Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, even though there were widespread fears among the force that he was not a terrorist, the police watchdog said.
The report by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said officers heard rumours that a mistake had probably been made hours after the shooting at Stockwell Tube station.
Police watching cricket at Lord’s were said to have heard there was a “terrible mistake”. A secretary working near Sir Ian’s office believed that “they had got the wrong man” and was surprised not to hear this on the news, the report said.
Yet Britain’s terror chief, Assistant Commissioner Andy Hayman, deliberately did not tell Sir Ian of growing evidence that Mr de Menezes was innocent even though he had been briefing journalists that a mistake may have been made, the report said.
Unaware of the growing concerns, Sir Ian told a press conference on the afternoon of the shooting he “understood” that the electrician – shot seven times in the head by anti-terror officers – had been directly linked to the hunt for the July 21 terrorists.
Sir Ian also claimed that Mr de Menezes failed to stop when challenged by police. He was not told of the mistake until 24 hours after the incident.
The report concluded that although Sir Ian did not lie, Scotland Yard put out misleading information.
It also upheld a complaint of misconduct against Mr Hayman. Last night, representatives of the family of Mr de Menezes said Sir Ian’s ignorance of the unfolding crisis raised “shocking” questions about his command of the force on July 22, 2005.
In addition, there were calls for Mr Hayman’s resignation after the report concluded he kept the commissioner in the dark and misled the public. He faces a discipline inquiry by the Metropolitan Police Authority (MPA).
The MP in whose constituency Mr de Menezes died, the Liberal Democrat Simon Hughes, said: “It will not be possible for him to continue in his present post with the confidence of the people of London.” However, there was powerful support for Mr Hayman, not only from colleagues at Scotland Yard who believe he has been made a “scapegoat”.
Ken Livingstone, the Mayor of London, said his “counter-terrorism activity has saved dozens of lives”. “It’s all very well for academics, which is largely what the police complaints people are, sitting in their office saying this is how it should have worked. You try doing it when you are waiting for the next bomb to go off.”
Sir Ian said Mr Hayman had his full support. Mr de Menezes, wrongly identified as one of the four July 21 bomb plotters, was killed at Stockwell Tube station, on July 22, 2005. An IPCC report into the death – “Stockwell One” – has not yet been released.
“Stockwell Two”, which cost £300,000 and was released yesterday, followed complaints from his family.
It offered few new facts about the killing, though it asserted that, contrary to Scotland Yard statements, Mr de Menezes did not fail to obey a clear instruction and was not dressed or behaving suspiciously.
Mr de Menezes was being watched after he walked out of a block of flats being watched by a surveillance team.
The IPCC report concluded that, as the day wore on, reports that the Met had shot a “lone Pakistani” who failed to obey an instruction had changed into suspicions that he was not a terrorist.
A wallet was found after he was shot at around 10.00am. When it was finally examined about five hours later it showed the name of Mr de Menezes.
The inquiry heard disputed evidence that one of Sir Ian’s senior aides had remarked hours after the shooting that a “Brazilian tourist” had been shot. Sir Ian allegedly walked by when this was being discussed “without saying anything and without anything being said to him”.
The report said that when the commissioner “left New Scotland Yard mid evening on July 22, 2005, he was almost totally uninformed about the post-shooting events at Stockwell.
“He did not know of the considerable information within the Met in relation to the emerging identity of Mr de Menezes.” The report considered a briefing Mr Hayman gave to the Crime Reporters Association around tea time on July 21, in which he suggested the dead man was not one of four suspects whose faces had been put out earlier.
However, in a subsequent briefing with Sir Ian, Mr Hayman did not mention these fears and a subsequent Met press release said it was not known whether he was one of the four.
The report said: “AC Hayman either misled the public when he briefed the CRA that the deceased was not one of the four or when he allowed the 18.44 July 22 press release to state that it was not known if the deceased was one of the four. He could not have believed both inconsistent statements were true.”
It is recommended that the MPA consider what action it intends to take.
The report found no evidence of misconduct against several senior officers including Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown, who was responsible for the operation. But Mr Brown, who has retired, and two of Sir Ian’s staff officers are criticised for an “error of judgment”. Sir Ian said after the publication of the report: “I have always made it clear that it was never my intention to mislead and, that if I had lied, I would not be fit to hold this office. I did not lie.
“I neither believe that my senior colleagues let me down nor that my position was unreasonable.”
But Sir Ian also admitted: “Public confidence was damaged when statements, for instance, about Mr de Menezes’s behaviour and clothing were revealed to be inaccurate, largely by a leak rather than by official clarification.”
Profile: Sir Ian Blair
The shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes has cast a long shadow over Sir Ian Blair’s reign as Metropolitan Police Commissioner.
He was cleared yesterday of lying about the incident in the aftermath or purposefully misleading the public.
But revelations that the head of Scotland Yard was left in the dark about the shooting of an innocent man raise questions about his leadership.
Sir Ian became Met commissioner in February 2005. In his first main test, he was praised for broadcasting a resolute message live to the nation minutes after the July 7 bombings in London.
But his subsequent, regular public appearances have led to controversy and ridicule. More recently, he has been perhaps conspicuous by his absence. Already dubbed New Labour’s favourite policeman, criticism began mounting in January 2006 when he described the media as institutionally racist for its allegedly unbalanced coverage of crimes against white people.
As an example he said “almost nobody” knew why the Soham murders of Holly Wells and Jessica Chapman was such a big story.
He later apologised after it was revealed that he secretly taped telephone conversations, most notably with the Attorney General, Lord Goldsmith.
In December, speaking on Radio 4, he drew anger for saying that Islamic terrorism was a “far graver threat in terms of civilians” than either the Cold War or the Second World War.
To some senior officers, the English graduate from Oxford appears to be most comfortable as a thoughtful academic.
But it is a role that has left him dangerously out of touch.
Profile: Andy Hayman
The head of specialist operations at the Metropolitan Police is chalk to Sir Ian Blair’s cheese.
Assistant Commissioner Hayman is a plain-speaking son of Essex, while the Commissioner has cultivated an image of an erudite, Oxford-educated police chief.
No one in the police world, though, would equate Mr Hayman’s occasional use of the vernacular, including the phrase “cooking on gas” to describe a promising operation, with a lack of intellectual grip.
Those who know him say he will regard his current problems as a side issue compared to the “big picture” of countering the jihadi terror threat. He is known to deny categorically that he deliberately misled anyone.
Born in 1959, and having reached the third highest rank in the Met, Mr Hayman is said to have impressed Tony Blair and Government figures in July 2005 with his calm briefings to the Cobra emergency security committee.
With his deputy, Peter Clarke, Mr Hayman has overseen high-profile operations, including last year’s arrest of those involved in the alleged plot to blow up airlines.
In November 1998, Mr Hayman entered the Association of Chief Police Officers (Acpo) when he was appointed to the rank of commander in the Met.
He left the Met to become Chief Constable of Norfolk and returned to Scotland Yard to take up his present post in February 2005.
Mr Hayman, who is married with two daughters, became a CBE last year.