In 2001 international terrorist events directed security services to conclude that terrorist events involving suicide bombers, were not only likely but sadly inevitable in any country. Among many other agencies, the Metropolitan Police sent a team headed by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Barbara Wilding, to Israel, Sri Lanka and the Russian Federation to discover how they responded to suicidal terrorist incidents. Government scientists were also consulted and the main findings were:
The explosives used by suicide bombers were sensitive, volatile and likely to be detonated by the standard practice of firing at the body’s centre of mass.
Suicide bombers were likely to detonate their explosives if discovered or challenged by the security services.
The Israelis found that a suicide bomber’s weapon could be detonated by a third party should the explosive carrier’s resolve desert them. One of the reason’s you can’t get a phone signal at a major incident.
New threats called for new tactics, which were developed by Wilding and Sir David Veness, the Assistant Commissioner Special Operations. These were designated as Operation Kratos after a Greek demi-god and the policy paper Operation Kratos People was circulated among all police services and became national policy in 2003. The plans outlined how suicide attackers were to be confronted by interception at a secluded location, so as not to risk the general public, that covert police officers would fire with no warning, using multiple hollow-point rounds to the head in order to destroy the suicide bomber’s brain stem. The decision to take such action would be the responsibility of a Designated Senior Officer (DSO), of Commander or Deputy Assistant Commissioner Rank. The DSOs were centrally located and available at all times.
The Shooting of Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes
Following the London Tube and Bus bombings of 7th July 2005, an internal email was circulated to specialist police units, reiterating the then secret tactics of dealing with suicide bombers. Between 21st July and 5th August 2005 DSOs were alerted on eleven occasions and Armed Response Units deployed to six of these incidents. On one of these occasions they opened fire.
On the 21st July 2005 after the attempted London Bombings, Specialist Firearms Officers who were hunting the escaped terrorists, were issued with hollow-point ammunition. The main suspect was Hussain Osman who with another suspect was linked to an address in Tulse Hill, which had been found inside one of the rucksacks that had failed to explode, written on a gym membership card. Commander Cressida Dick was appointed as the Gold Commander for the operation and was also appointed as Kratos DSO. The firearms team was informed that they faced suicide bombers and that a DSO was in place. They were also briefed that they might have to use “unusual tactics.”
The concept of Gold, Silver and Bronze Commands in major incident management has been in place since the early 2000s. It is widely used in the Armed Forces with the METHANE reporting system and any operations in which the MoD operate under the auspices of the Home or Foreign and Commonwealth Offices. For background, links to this system and METHANE reporting can be found at:
Charles de Menezes lived in one of the flats at the address on the card with two of his cousins. On 22nd of July he received a call to fix a broken fire alarm in Kilburn. At 09:30 surveillance officers who were looking for three men of Eritrean or Somalian appearance, saw de Menezes leave the Tulse Hill flats. An officer referred to as “Frank” in the Stockwell 1 Report, compared Menezes to the CCTV photographs of the bombers and felt that he warranted further attention, which Mr de Menezes would duly receive. As the officer was said to be urinating, he was unable to immediately film the suspect and send the images to the Gold Command. Transcript from the inquest confirms that “Frank” was a soldier seconded to the special surveillance unit.
On “Frank’s” suspicion, Commander Dick authorised officers to continue surveillance, pursuit and to prevent him from entering the Tube network. Subsequent documents produced by the independent agency tasked with investigating the shooting, concluded that mistakes in police surveillance procedures led to the failure to correctly identify de Menezes, which led to rushed assumptions and actions at Stockwell Tube Station.
Undercover officers followed de Menezes to a bus stop and boarded the No 2 bus with him. He got off at Brixton station, which was closed due to the security alert from the previous day’s attempted bombings. Menezes made a phone call and re-boarded the bus to Stockwell. This behaviour led officers to believe that he may have been one of the suspects from the previous day’s bombing attempts and that he was behaving suspiciously. The police officers later stated that they were convinced they had the right man, noting that he had “Mongolian eyes.” The officers contacted Gold Command and reported that Menezes potentially matched the description of two of the previous day’s suspects, including Osman Hussain. According to a “senior police source at Scotland Yard”, Police Commander Cressida Dick told the surveillance team that the man was to be “detained as soon as possible”, before entering the station. Gold Command then transferred control of the operation to Specialist Firearms Command (known as ‘CO19’ or ‘SO19’), which dispatched firearms officers to Stockwell tube station.
At 10:00 de Menezes entered Stockwell Tube station and stopped to pick up a free newspaper. He used an Oyster Card to pay for the fare, walked through the barriers and descended to platform level on the escalator. He ran across the platform to board a newly-arrived train and sat down in one of the first available seats. He was followed onto the train by three surveillance officers code-named “Hotel 1,” “Hotel 3” and “Hotel 9.” According to “Hotel 3,” Menezes sat down with a glass panel to his right about two seats in. “Hotel 3” then took a seat on the left with about two or three passengers between Menezes and himself. When the firearms officers arrived on the platform, “Hotel 3” moved to the door, blocked it from closing with his left foot, and shouted “He’s here!” to identify the suspect’s location.
Although no Kratos code word had been given, the firearms officers would later claim they had challenged the suspect although later reports indicate that this was not the case. “Hotel 3” claimed that de Menezes stood up and advanced towards the firearms officers, at which point “Hotel 3” grabbed de Menezes, pinned his arms next to his torso and pushed him back into his seat then heard a shot close to his ear. “Hotel 3” was dragged to the floor of the carriage and he raised his arms and shouted “Police!” He was then dragged off the train by one of the armed officers, during which he heard several gunshots.
Two armed officer fired eleven rounds, confirmed by the empty cases found in the carriage. Menezes was shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder, at a range of one to eight centimetres. An eyewitness testified that eleven rounds were fired over a thirty second period, although another witness said that they heard five shots with an interval, then several more shots. Menezes was later pronounced dead at the scene and a senior police source said that Menezes’s body had been “unrecognisable.”
I have every sympathy for the firearms officers who I believe were acting on good faith with the information they had. However, their information was incomplete, flawed and the suspect was allowed to enter the Tube network. The officers had to make quick decisions and they believed they were dealing with a suicide bomber, so their lives were on the line as well. They were authorised to use deadly force which they did, causing no physical injury to members of the public and bystanders. But quite how the other passengers reacted to seeing a man killed in front of them is another matter.
I once made a very bad judgement call and opened fire on a person I believed was in the process of carrying out a terrorist act. Thank God I only had blank ammunition, that I was on a training area in a bleak, rainy and miserable Herefordshire and the man I fired at was a member of the directing staff and well capable of looking after himself. But even during exercises, the command takes a pretty dim view of someone opening fire outwith their ROE, on a person going about his lawful business, albeit at a god forsaken hour, conducted is an extremely furtive and covert manner. The damning factor was that I opened fire without issuing a challenge. I believed and still do that this would have increased the risk to property and personnel I was defending with my SLR, BFA and twenty rounds of blank ammunition. I was put under close arrest and was in fathoms of shit for a while, until my notional court martial and I’d like to thank Flight Sergeant “Perry Mason” PJI for getting me off. Wherever you are now.
People in the main try and do their best given the information they have, the situation and the constraints under which they are operating. We are all only human. What I find totally abhorrent is when senior officials obfuscate, withhold information and lie in subsequent investigations into their conduct and the conduct of the operation they were in command of. Perhaps worse is the smearing of the victim and the implication that by his actions, the victim had somehow brought it upon himself.
The Fall Out and an Unholy Mess
The SO19 firearms officers involved in the shooting were debriefed and drugs and alcohol tests were taken as per standard procedure. The officers were taken off duty, pending an investigation into the shooting. One security agency source said later that members of SO19 received training from the SAS. He said the operation was not typical of the police, and bore the hallmarks of a Special Forces operation. The day after the shooting, the Metropolitan Police identified the victim as Jean Charles de Menezes, and said that he had not been carrying explosives, nor was he connected in any way to the attempted bombings. They issued an apology describing the incident as “a tragedy, and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets”.
As in all cases of fatal police shootings, the incident was the subject of an internal investigation by officers from Scotland Yard’s Directorate of Professional Standards. It would then be referred to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC). Immediately after the shooting Commissioner Sir Ian Blair telephoned the head of the IPCC and wrote to the Home Office, instructing that “the shooting that has just occurred at Stockwell is not to be referred to the IPCC and that they will be given no access to the scene at the present time.” The letter was released under the Freedom of Information Act and expressed the Commissioner’s intent to protect the tactics and sources of information used in a counter-terrorism operation from public jeopardising future operations.
On 18 August, lawyers representing the Menezes family met with the IPCC and urged them to conduct a ‘fast’ investigation. The lawyers, Harriet Wistrich and Gareth Peirce, held a press conference where they lamented the ‘chaotic mess.’ They stated their desire to ask the IPCC ‘to find out is how much is incompetence, negligence or gross negligence and how much of it is something sinister.’ The IPCC issued a statement on 18th August saying the Metropolitan Police was opposed to their taking on the investigation and that the enquiry would last between three and six months. During this period the police lobbied MPs in an attempt to influence the enquiry and the Met declined repeated requests by the IPCC to disclose hundreds of pages of internal papers that gave the Met’s private assessment of the operation. These pages including discussions about how much compensation the Met thought it should pay to the Menezes family; the risk that individual officers might face murder or manslaughter charges; the vulnerability of Blair and the Met to an action for civil damages and whether Special Branch officers altered surveillance logs. In May 2006, the Metropolitan Police Federation released a 12-page statement which was highly critical of the IPCC in general and specifically criticised the handling of the ‘Stockwell inquiry.’ The Metropolitan Police Federation is a staff association that represents the interests of all police in the Metropolitan Police Service up to the rank of Chief Inspector. It seeks to ensure that the Metropolitan Police Service operates to the highest professional standards and that it is fully accountable.
Initially the Met offered the de Menezes family around £100,000 in compensation, which their legal team rejected and was reported in the media as derisory. The family of Stephen Lawrence received £320,000 for failures before, during and after the investigation into the teenager’s murder and a police worker received £120,000 for a bruise sustained at work. The de Menezes family eventually settled out of court for an undisclosed sum.
On 14 March 2006, the IPCC announced that the first part of the inquiry, known as ‘Stockwell 1’ had been completed and recommendations were passed on to the Metropolitan Police Authority and Crown Prosecution Service, but the report ‘[could not] be made public until all legal processes have concluded.’ The report was published on 8 November 2007. ‘Stockwell 2’, the second part of the inquiry, focused on the conduct of Sir Ian Blair and Andrew Hayman following the discovery of Menezes’s identity. The allegations were that MPS officers “made or concurred with inaccurate public statements concerning the circumstances of the death. The alleged inaccurate information included statements that Mr de Menezes had been wearing clothing and behaving in a manner which aroused suspicions.”
To add to the turmoil, the Met was threatened with legal action by Deputy Assistant Commissioner Brian Paddick on 17th March 2006. Giving evidence to the IPCC, Paddick stated that a member of Blair’s private office team believed the wrong man had been targeted less than six hours after the incident. When this information became public, Scotland Yard issued a statement that the officer making the claim (Paddick) “has categorically denied this in his interview with and statement to, the IPCC investigators.” The statement continued that they “were satisfied that whatever the reasons for this suggestion being made, it is simply not true.” Paddick’s interpretation of this statement was that it accused him of lying.
During the inquest into the death of Menezes on 13th October 2008, a police surveillance officer admitted that he had deleted a computer record of Cressida Dick’s instruction that they could allow Menezes to “run on to Tube as [he was] not carrying anything.” At the inquest he told the court that “On reflection, I looked at that and thought I cannot actually say that.” The IPCC announced that it would investigate the matter ‘[at its] highest level of investigation.’ However, it would appear that Cressida Dick has sailed through the furore surrounding the Stockwell shooting on the Teflon hulled Good Ship CP. This is the Wikipedia entry for Commander Dick’s role in the incident, which is short in the extreme for such an important aspect of her police career:
In the immediate aftermath of 21 July 2005 London bombings, she was the gold commander in the control room during the operation which led to the death of the Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, wrongly identified as a potential suicide bomber.
The Crown Prosecution Service (CPS) is also independent of the Police and announced in July 2006 that it would not carry forward any charges against any individual involved in the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes. However, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in his official capacity faced criminal charges under sections 3(1) and 33(1)(a) of the Health and Safety at Work etc. Act 1974 for ‘failing to provide for the health, safety and welfare of Jean Charles de Menezes.’ The Commissioner’s legal representatives pleaded not guilty to the charge under H&S legislation. On 1 November 2007, the Metropolitan Police Commissioner in his official capacity was found guilty of the above offences, and his office was fined £175,000, together with £385,000 of legal costs. During the trial an allegation was made that the police had manipulated a photo of de Menezes so as to increase his resemblance to a ‘terrorist,’ Hussain Oman. A forensic specialist concluded de Menezes’ face ‘appeared to have been brightened and lost definition’. However, when asked if there had been any manipulation of any of the primary features of the face he replied “I don’t believe there has been any… but making the image brighter has changed the image.”
There was intense controversy from the usual suspects over the Met’s ROE when dealing with suicide bombers. Sir Ian Blair appeared on television on 24th July 2005 to accept responsibility for the error on the part of the Metropolitan Police in the case of the shooting of de Menezes and to acknowledge and defend the ridiculously titled ‘shoot to kill’ policy, saying:
“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.”
Azzam Tamimi of the Muslim Association of Britain was critical, saying somewhat unimaginatively: “I just cannot imagine how someone pinned to the ground can be a source of danger.” Other leaders of the UK’s Muslim community, perhaps somewhat unsurprisingly took a similar view.
The inquest opened on 22nd September 2008. The Coroner, Sir Michael Wright said that the two armed officers thought Menezes was about to detonate a ‘device’ on the Tube. He took the inquest jury through the events leading up to Menezes’s death, listing a number of occasions where officers were unclear whether or not they thought they were pursuing a bomber. The jury was told of differences between what was being relayed on radio and logged in the Scotland Yard control room and how the officers in the field were interpreting the information. On Friday 12th December 2008, the inquest into Jean Charles’ death the jury returned an open verdict. The open verdict meant that the jury confirmed the death was suspicious, but was unable to reach any other verdicts open to them. What hampered the inquest was the lack of CCTV footage. Platform cameras were reported as not working. The train footage was not available as the central hard drive had been removed after the 7th July bombings. The jury’s answers to the specific questions and contributory facts were as follows. In the latter portion, the answers ‘yes’, ‘no’, and ‘can’t decide’ were determined by the jury while answering the broader question ‘which of these other factors, if any, contributed to the death.’
Questions of fact:
Did Mr Menezes vault the ticket barrier and run down the escalator? No, although some witness accounts dispute this and probably misidentified pursuing police personnel as de Menezes.
Did firearms officer C12 shout ‘armed police?’ No.
Did Mr Menezes stand up from his seat before he was grabbed in a bear hug by officer Hotel 3? Yes.
Did Mr Menezes move towards C12 before he was grabbed in a bear hug by Hotel 3? No.
Possible contributory factors:
The pressure on police after the suicide attacks in July 2005. Jury unable to decide.
A failure to obtain and provide better photographic images of failed bomber Hussain Osman to surveillance officers. Yes.
The general difficulty in providing identification of the man under surveillance in the time available. No.
The fact that the views of the surveillance officers regarding identification were not accurately communicated to the command team and firearms officers. Yes.
A failure by police to ensure that Mr Menezes was stopped before he reached public transport. Yes.
The innocent behaviour of Mr Menezes increasing suspicion. No.
The fact that the position of the cars containing the firearms officers was not accurately known by the command team as firearms teams were approaching Stockwell Tube. Yes.
Shortcomings in the communications system between various police teams on the ground. Yes.
Failure to conclude at the time that surveillance officers could have been used to carry out the stop on Mr Menezes at Stockwell. Yes.
The Guardian newspaper reported that members of the military’s Special Reconnaissance Regiment (SSR) were involved in the operation. Anonymous Whitehall sources who provided the story stressed that the SRR were involved only in intelligence-gathering, and that Menezes was shot by armed police not by members of the SRR or other soldiers, although it was admitted that SSR personnel may have been on the train.
According to the Home Office, Jean Charles da Silva e de Menezes arrived in Britain on 13 March 2002, on a six-month visitor’s visa. After its expiry, he applied to stay on as a student and was granted permission to remain until 30 June 2003. The Home Office said it had no record of any further correspondence, but added: “We have seen a copy of Mr Menezes’ passport, containing a stamp apparently giving him indefinite leave to remain in the UK. On investigation, this stamp was not one that was in use by the Immigration and Nationality Directorate on the date given.” This was denied by the family of Menezes, and Foreign Secretary Jack Straw stated that he believed Menezes was living in the UK legally, but had no precise information to confirm this. Immigration records show that Menezes entered the Republic of Ireland from France on 23 April 2005. There are no records to show the exact date that he returned to the UK; under the Common Travel Area system, a foreign citizen entering the UK through the Republic of Ireland has an automatic right to remain for three months. Therefore, Menezes was lawfully in the UK on the day he was killed.
*C3I – Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence
Operation Kratos – Wikipedia
Death of Jean Charles de Menezes – Wikipedia
Stockwell One – Investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell underground station on 22 July 2005 – Independent Police Complaints Commission
Stockwell Inquest Transcript
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