London Police Modify Story
By Mary Jordan
Washington Post Foreign Service
Tuesday, August 23, 2005; A08
LONDON, Aug. 22 -- Scotland Yard acknowledged Monday that Jean Charles de Menezes, a Brazilian electrician mistaken for a suicide bomber, had done nothing unusual before he was shot after entering the London subway last month. Police said Menezes used a ticket to enter and had not jumped a turnstile, and they said he was not wearing a padded jacket that could have concealed a bomb.
That version of events, recounted by police in a written statement, was significant because it was similar to a widely publicized report leaked last week about the killing of Menezes, 27. The report, which followed an independent investigation, had contradicted an official explanation of why police shot Menezes seven times in the head on July 22.
Menezes was killed a day after bombs planted by four attackers on three subway trains and a bus failed to detonate. That attempt came two weeks after July 7 attacks on subway trains and a bus killed 56 people, including the four presumed bombers, and injured 700 others.
Despite public outrage, police had said little to modify their original assertion that Menezes was fleeing when he was shot and was wearing a jacket large enough to conceal an explosive device.
Scotland Yard's statement followed a closed-door meeting with two senior Brazilian officials, Wagner Goncalves, an assistant attorney general, and Marcio Pereira Pinto Garcia, a Justice Ministry official, who arrived Monday.
Ian Blair, the commissioner of the Metropolitan Police, apologized for the death of Menezes, according to the police statement. Scotland Yard said that police told Menezes's relatives in Britain two days after his death that he was not running from police when he was killed. Officials also offered his family in Brazil about $27,000, specifying in a letter that the amount was for expenses and did not preclude future claims against the police.
According to Scotland Yard, payment was originally offered in the days after Menezes's death as part of an assurance that British police would pay for travel and funeral expenses. The statement said the purpose of a top Scotland Yard official's trip to Brazil was to apologize and to give the family details of "initial funds" that would be made available to assist them.
Family members have rejected the offer, which Menezes's mother described as "disgusting."
On Sunday, Blair said he had not known until 24 hours after the shooting that police had killed an innocent man.
"Somebody came in at 10:30 a.m. and said the equivalent of, 'Houston, we have a problem,' " Blair said, according to a news report. "I thought, 'That's dreadful. What are we going to do about that?' "
Meanwhile, people gathered outside 10 Downing Street, the residence of Prime Minister Tony Blair, Monday night to observe the one-month anniversary of Menezes's death. "It is an outrage," said Shanaz Nevaz, 33, a marketing executive who attended. Police were trying to "wash over" their mistake, she said, adding that people would not stand for it. "I'm here because I just wanted to show my support for the family."
There was additional controversy about the possible existence of surveillance tapes that could have recorded
Menezes entering the Stockwell subway station. According to published reports, police removed the equipment on July 21, after the failed bomb attack. But several newspapers, citing unidentified sources, have reported that the surveillance camera equipment was working and had been turned over to police.