More innocents could be shot
London Telegraph | July 25, 2005
By Ben Fenton and John Steele
Britain's most senior policeman said yesterday that more members of the public could be accidentally shot as the manhunt for suspected suicide bombers continues.
Sir Ian Blair, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner, apologised to the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, a 27-year-old Brazilian electrician who was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station on Friday by an armed officer.
The police confirmed he had no connection with terrorist attacks on the capital.
Sir Ian said the killing of Mr de Menezes was "a tragedy".
"The Metropolitan Police accepts full responsibility for this," he said. "To the family I can only express my deep regrets."
But the apology was rejected by a cousin of Mr de Menezes, who was followed by police after coming out of a block of flats in Tulse Hill, south London. Mr de Menezes and an alleged suspect from last Thursday's abortive bomb attacks lived in the building.
Standing outside the flats, Alex Pereira said: "They tried to say sorry but we can't accept that. They have to do the right thing. If they do their jobs right, they don't have to say sorry."
Sir Ian was pressed in an interview on Sky News about whether a repeat of the killing of Mr de Menezes was possible. He said: "Well somebody else could be shot.
"Everything is done to make it right, but you know this is a terrifying set of circumstances for individuals to make decisions in.
"I mean, the important point here is there's nothing gratuitous in what's going on, there's nothing, you know, cavalier here. There's no conspiracy to shoot people.
"I am very aware that minority communities are talking about a shoot-to-kill policy. It is only a shoot-to-kill-in-order-to-protect policy. There is no point in shooting at someone's chest because that is where the bomb is likely to be.
"There is no point in shooting anywhere else if they fall down and detonate it. The only way to deal with this is to shoot to the head.
"I think we are quite comfortable the policy is right but these are fantastically difficult times. We have to take this tragedy, deeply regret it and move on to the main investigation which is proceeding at an extraordinary pace."
Mr Pereira said the police were incompetent and cowardly. He claimed that his cousin had been murdered and said that when he went to identify Mr de Menezes's body, it was clear he had been shot in the back of the neck.
"He walked five minutes to a bus, then he travelled two miles to a station, then he went in to the station and only then did they shoot him," Mr Pereira said.
"Why? If they think he is a suicide bomber, why let him on a bus, why not stop him on the street?"
"I say to Tony Blair, to everybody: watch out, this could be you next, it could be me, it could be anybody, shot in the back of the neck by some incompetent policeman."
Fellow Brazilians were equally appalled at what was presented in their media as an execution by the Metropolitan Police.
On the BBC's Brasil website, one contributor compared the killing to the worst excesses of the Brazilian police in the favelas of Rio de Janeiro and Sao Paolo.
"Jean Charles de Menezes was executed by London's Metropolitan police in the same way [as] the death squads that operate in Brazil," Renato da Silva Pinto wrote.
"What happened was terrible," said Dr Sandra Coutinho, who was present when authorities told Mr de Menezes's parents of his death. "We expect this from the Brazilian police, but we never expect this from the English police."
Scotland Yard was last night still hunting the four suspected bombers behind last Thursday's attempted attacks whose CCTV images were released on Friday. Sir Ian said police arrested three men in London over the weekend. They can question them until Wednesday. None are believed to be the bombers.
Officers have so far raided three addresses in connection with the investigation, in West Kilburn, north west London, Stockwell and Tulse Hill, both south London. Two of the arrested men were held on Friday night in the Stockwell area and the third in Tulse Hill on Saturday evening.
Forensic experts are examining the contents of a "suspect package" found on Saturday in bushes in Little Wormwood Scrubs in west London, not far from Shepherd's Bush, the scene of one of Thursday's abortive attacks. Police said the object "may be linked to devices found at four locations on July 21".
The developments in the investigation came as Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, succumbed to pressure to postpone his family holiday because of the current crisis.
He had earlier planned to go away for a week.