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 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 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]
Mr Ruston remembers one of the Scotland Yard team screaming into
a radio as they were running. [Source]
That last detail 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
A response which led them to kill Mr. Menezes. But if so, they would soon have
discovered their catastrophic error. It would be disaster in public relations
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 anti-terrorist operations.
Was that a lie to give them time to construct a scenario which made it more
understandable 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."
Which is hardly reassuring for those already skeptical about the actual source
of those rucksacks.
In any event, this reported account of that surveilance 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 surveilance 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. Memezes was in no hurry
"The bus journey was slow, as on any other Friday morning, but
Mr Menezes seemed to be in no hurry." [Source]
But this well-founded account 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 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 eyewitness accounts which totally contradict our
proposed 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]
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
Another account we know to be strikingly wrong in retrospect 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, Larkins account of officers shouting "get down, get down"
is very close to Whitby's tale of "people saying get out, get down".
Arguably, that is because both accounts are accurate, 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?