UK police "resisted" probe on Brazilian's shooting

LONDON - London's police chief initially tried to block an inquiry by the force's independent watchdog into the police shooting of a Brazilian they mistakenly thought was a suicide bomber, the supervisory body said.

Police shot electrician Jean Charles de Menezes eight times on an underground train on July 22, the day after four attacks on London's transport system failed when bombs did not explode. Two weeks earlier four suicide bombers had killed 52 commuters.

"The Metropolitan Police Service initially resisted us taking on the investigation but we overcame that," John Wadham, deputy chair of the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), said in a strongly worded statement.

"This dispute has caused delay in us taking over the investigation but we have worked hard to recover the lost ground," he said.

The watchdog's statement will heap further pressure on London police chief Ian Blair, who first said the shooting was linked to the investigation into the failed bombings and that de Menezes was challenged and refused to obey police orders.

Blair told London's Evening Standard newspaper his men had been convinced they were dealing with a suicide bomber and that there had been no attempt to cover up events.

"These allegations strike to the heart of the integrity of the police ... and I fundamentally reject them," he said.

"There is no cover-up."

Leaked police and eyewitness accounts obtained by ITV News conflicted with his version of events.

Brazil said it would conduct its own inquiry into the shooting of a Brazilian by British police after news of blunders and erroneous reports deepened its anger at the killing.

A Brazilian mission will visit Britain next week after leaked information cast doubt on police reports explaining how officers mistook electrician Jean de Menezes for a suicide bomber and shot him eight times, seven times in the head.

"The most recent news, accompanied by shocking images, has deepened the Brazilian government's anger," Brazil's foreign ministry said in a statement.

Lawyers representing de Menezes' family accused Blair of trying to block an official inquiry, saying he asked the government for an internal police investigation into the killing rather than hand over the probe to the IPCC.

"Why the delay? What were the police doing investigating themselves when that was not their role?" asked Gareth Peirce, a lawyer working for the family.

"What we have asked the IPCC to find out is how much of it is incompetence and negligence, including gross negligence, and how much of it may be something more sinister," Peirce said.

Brazil is plagued by violent crime, but few in the South American country can understand how British police could have killed the 27-year-old in the belief he was about to blow himself up at a South London underground train station.

A Brazilian public prosecutor and justice ministry officials will next week interview members of the police's independent supervisory board, police chiefs and other British authorities to try to clear up the case.

"The Brazilian government expects to get a full explanation, including details of the most recent information shown in the press," the foreign ministry said.

Initial accounts said the Brazilian, 27, was dressed suspiciously in a heavy coat on a warm day, fled armed officers, vaulted over ticket barriers and ran on to a train.

But the documents leaked to ITV indicated statements from police and other witnesses showed he was not wearing a padded jacket, had walked calmly through the station and stopped to collect a free newspaper before sitting down in the carriage.

"Sir Ian Blair should resign. The lies that appear to have been put out ... are clearly wrong. And nobody has stepped in to correct the lies," said Harriet Wistrich, another lawyer for the de Menezes family.

The Met says it wrote to the government to "clarify" the role of the IPCC and then agreed to hand over the investigation.

The IPCC began work last year with new powers to improve the handling of complaints against the police in England and Wales. The Menezes shooting is its most high-profile case to date.

A fatal shooting case must be handed over by the police force involved by the end of business on the working day after the incident, but in the Menezes case the IPCC was not handed the police file until five days later, an IPCC spokesman said.

"All I can say to you is that this has not occurred in the five other fatal shootings we have been involved with," he said.

- REUTERS

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