By Danny Brierley
THE Mayor today refused to apologise for calling police marksmen “trigger-happy” after the comments were revealed in an acrimonious exchange of letters with former Met Commissioner Sir Ian Blair.
Boris Johnson made the remark about the officers who killed Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes on the Tube during a radio debate in the run-up to last year’s mayoral election.
Details of the robust exchange between the two were revealed for the first time following a Freedom of Information request and show the level of hostility that existed long before Sir Ian’s departure from his role as Britain’s top policeman.
Mr Johnson started the row when he told the BBC’s World at One programme: “I think the real reason Jean Charles de Menezes got killed in the Stockwell Tube was not just because the police were too trigger happy, although I think you could argue that they were…”
Infuriated by what he saw as “outrageous” and “offensive” remarks, Sir Ian fired off the first missive and demanded a retraction. The Met chief, who resigned after claiming he had lost Mr Johnson’s support, wrote: “I am writing to you to say that I consider your comments that it could be argued that MPS officers are ‘trigger happy’ to be outrageous.
“I would suggest in the strongest possible terms that you withdraw your remarks.”
But the war of words over the shooting which occurred in the wake of the 2005 London Tube bombings was exacerbated by Mr Johnson’s riposte.
His letter read: “You seem to want me to withdraw the use of the word ‘trigger happy’ in respect of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes. I have absolutely no intention of doing so.
“It is hard to think of any other description of a catastrophe in which a completely innocent man ends up with seven bullets in his head.”
Sir Ian replied again on 6 December 2007 to say that he was “very, very surprised” that Mr Johnson stood by his comments, claiming numerous officers considered them “offensive” and had complained to him.
But today a spokesman for the Mayor reiterated his stance. He said: “The Mayor expressed a considered view as a commentator and mayoral candidate. The letter makes it clear that he is not questioning the courage of the officers at the scene.
“He stands by the concerns he raised and believes they are shared by many in London and across the UK.”
Mr Johnson later said the BBC had apologised for cutting off his interview before he had explained himself.
Mr de Menezes was shot on 22 July 2005 at point blank range when armed officers mistook him for failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman.