Police shot wrong suspect, court told

Herald Sun
Friday October 05, 2007

POLICE commanders twice changed their minds over the arrest of Jean Charles de Menezes in the moments before he was shot dead, a UK court heard yesterday.

As he approached Stockwell Tube station in London they decided surveillance officers should detain the man they thought was a suicide bomber before he entered it, as a specialist firearms team had yet to arrive.

But almost immediately after issuing the order, Scotland Yard commanders were told the elite armed SO19 squad was in a position to make the arrest, the Old Bailey was told.

Commander Cressida Dick then ordered the officers on the ground that SO19 would detain the suspect, senior anti-terrorist officer Detective Superintendent Jon Boutcher told the court.

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The next information to come through to the control room was that the man they thought was attempted bomber Hussain Osman was descending the escalator to the station platform, Boutcher said. As police followed him underground, the control room lost radio contact with them, he told the court.

Boutcher, who was "silver" commander of the anti-terrorist operation that day, said the next thing they heard was that "the subject has been shot".

Jurors have been told that Menezes, an innocent 27-year-old Brazilian, was shot seven times in the head on July 22 2005.

The Metropolitan Police is on trial over claims a "catastrophic" series of errors in planning led to his death. The force denies the prosecution charge, which is being brought under health and safety law.

Menezes was followed from a block of flats in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill, south London, which police had under surveillance as it was linked to Osman.

As he made his way there, Boutcher said it was first believed he was not, and then that he was, the suspect Osman.

When he arrived at Stockwell, SO19 officers were still not there, but Menezes was being tailed by Special Branch (SO12) surveillance officers.

Boutcher said: "I informed Commander Dick that she should instruct the SO12 surveillance team to detain the subject.

"The SO12 officers are not trained for armed intervention. They carry firearms merely for self-protection.

"But in my judgment this was potentially Hussain Osman and a reasonable and balanced decision would be to stop the subject with the surveillance team before he was able to get into the Underground.

"She did indeed instruct the SO12 officers were to stop the subject."

But Boutcher said that "almost immediately" the operations room learned from Trojan 80, the senior firearms tactical adviser there "that the SO19 team were now in position to arrest the subject".

"Commander Dick then instructed that the SO19 officers would now conduct the arrest because they were in position to do so," he added.

He said he expected the arrest to take place in an "open plan" area before the suspect went through the barriers and down into the station, but soon learned he was making his way down the escalator.

"The effect of going underground then stopped radio transmissions," he added.

Later, he said: "Trojan 80, who was the senior tactical adviser in the room, informed us that the subject had been shot."

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