Getting away with murder
David Mills – Guardian Unlimited August 1, 2007
The IPCC's final report into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes will confirm that all police officers involved are to be cleared. The chief antiterrorist officer, Andy Hayman, will merely be "heavily criticised" for not telling his boss what really happened on July 22, 2005. Sir Ian Blair, also cleared, apparently didn't know the true story until the next day, despite the pair having a briefing just hours after the shooting. This contradicts Sir Ian's denials that he was kept in the dark when he spoke on the Today programme in December 2005. But then this whole saga is riddled with contradictions, as the police have shamefully attempted to cover up what really happened and clear themselves of any blame.
We were misled to believe that de Menezes was wearing a bulky jacket containing explosives and that he leapt over the ticket barriers at Stockwell tube station, and ran down the escalators ignoring police calls to stop. In reality he couldn't have behaved more normally, even pausing to pick up a paper, before using his ticket to pass through the barriers.
Sir Ian said on the day: "As I understand the situation the man was challenged and refused to obey police instructions" and a Scotland Yard statement added: "His clothing and his behaviour at the station added to their suspicions." Of course, it turned out Sir Ian's understanding was a complete and utter misunderstanding, and that the police's suspicions were just wrong. Attempts to exonerate themselves by pointing to the "unprecedented challenges" they faced with four suicide bombers on the loose, were not good enough.
For the uncovering of what really happened we have to thank Lana Vandenberghe, who paid the price for revealing the truth, as her leak formed the basis of an ITV News investigation into the shooting of de Menezes. She lost her job at the IPCC, was evicted by her landlady, arrested and treated harshly by the police. The harassment caused by the whole episode turned her into a recluse. She wasn't the only one. ITV News producer Neil Garrett and his girlfriend - the link between Vandenberghe and Garrett – were arrested.
They both spent hours in a cell and were bailed on a few occasions. While inside, Garrett's pregnant girlfriend was deprived of food and drink, and given a blanket full of lice. Unknown to him at the time, Garrett's flat was raided and turned upside down. But thanks to these individuals, and despite the police's attempts at obfuscation, the public now know that de Menezes looked anything but a terrorist, and was just an innocent man like anyone of us, caught up in the irresponsible actions of the police.
The 11 other police officers involved were cleared in May this year. In this final report, three officers have ensured the IPCC have re-edited it, removing criticisms made against them, after complaints about the IPCC "breaching procedural rules". Officers involved also edited the official log, but the CPS is not going to press charges. A police source said: "There is a sense that the IPCC, having failed to recommend any action against any of the officers involved in the shooting, itself needed a scapegoat."
Try telling this to the mother and father of Jean Charles de Menezes. The suggestion there was no scapegoat for July 22 is yet another example of the police shirking responsibility in this case. Try telling them that criticisms of three officers had to be withdrawn because the IPCC hadn't correctly followed its guidelines. What guidelines did the police follow on that July 22 morning and in its aftermath? What guidelines did they follow when dealing with Vandenberghe, Garrett, and his girlfriend?
This miscarriage of justice will blow over soon, once the dust quickly settles on this final report. The shrine to de Menezes at Stockwell tube station must remain, so people will never forget how an innocent man was killed, and that those responsible are continuing to police the streets of London.
De Menezes body lies in a deserted underground carriage in London's Stockwell tube station
Last updated 05/08/2007