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Tuesday, April 18, 2006 

de Menezes: Brian Paddick speaks honestly and gets retired for doing so.

A high profile Scotland Yard officer who has repeatedly clashed with his bosses over the killing of Jean Charles de Menezes faces being ousted from his job, the Guardian has learned.

Brian Paddick gave evidence to the official inquiry into the shooting of the Brazilian at Stockwell tube station last July, that challenged claims by his boss, the Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair, and is also facing an allegation that he leaked information about the killing to a BBC journalist.

Mr Paddick told the Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation into the commissioner's conduct, that officials within Sir Ian's own office feared the wrong man had been killed just hours after the shooting. Sir Ian has repeatedly said that he and his aides had no inkling until the morning of the next day that the man shot eight times by officers hunting suicide bombers was in fact innocent.

The trickle of information surrounding the execution of Jean Charles de Menezes continues. The IPCC has not yet finished its second inquiry, the first already done and dusted, and the CPS is apparently still considering whether charges are to be brought. The second inquiry, surrounding "Sir" Ian Blair's conduct on the day and in the immediate aftermath, is currently impossible to read. What seems to be gradually coming to the fore though is that Blair himself may well have been telling the truth all along.

The Met, and Blair are still adamant that they did not know until the following Saturday morning that an innocent man had been shot dead by CO19, the Met's elite firearms squad. Brian Paddick, along with others, have been challenging that explanation which was given to the IPCC. Paddick claims that senior officials within Blair's own office knew within hours that an innocent man had been shot dead. Blair's own explanation, that he gave to the News of the World, was that he came in on Saturday morning only to be told the equivalent of Nasa scientists by astronauts in space: "Houston, we have a problem."

Paddick's claims deserve further looking into. One person at the Met has already claimed that the operation on July the 22nd was a "complete and utter fuck-up", from beginning to end. Mistakes were made from the beginning, when the officer monitoring the flats where de Menezes lived failed to properly identify him, as he was "relieving" himself at the time. De Menezes was followed, yet he was allowed to get off and then back on the bus on finding that the tube station he normally embarked at was shut, for what was a very short space of time. On arriving at Stockwell, de Menezes was allowed to enter the tube station, the CO19 officers who were following him, apparently uncertain of what to do, or panicking at not being given permission immediately by Cressida Dick to shoot the man that they were under the impression was one of the previous days attempted suicide bombers, preceded to run after him once he had already had the chance to pick up a copy of the Metro newspaper and enter the barriers using his Oyster card. That when de Menezes entered the carriage he was immediately apprehended by yet another police officer, who got him on the floor and put his hands behind his back, while the CO19 officers entered the carriage and proceeded to put 7 bullets in his head and another 3 in his shoulder, shows that he could have been contained without being shot in the first place. A special branch officer later in the day altered the official log, which had originally said "and it was Osman" in relation to a positive identification of who they thought de Menezes was to "and it was not Osman".

A quick examination of de Menezes body, which must have taken place shortly after his death would have confirmed that he had not been carrying any explosives or wearing a suicide belt. So why was this information not given quickly to the Met, who would have been able to discount the account of at least one witness, who claimed he saw an explosives belt? Paddick's claims that the officers knew within hours that the wrong man had been shot dead would tally with this. What seems to have happened is that "Sir" Ian Blair was kept out of the loop on all of this. Quick pathology tests would have established if de Menezes head was all but destroyed, as seems likely seeing as the police used "dum dum" bullets, that he was not their suspect. Again, this seems not to have been passed on to Blair until the following day.

So why was Blair kept of the loop? Without access to the full IPCC reports, it's impossible to know for sure. It could be that as the police quickly realised that an innocent man had been executed that they could use the death to get rid of their "politically correct" head. The mistakes of not correcting the wrong witness reports, the claims that de Menezes had not stopped when ordered, despite never being ordered to, and had not been positively identified completely, did not emerge until later, yet they seem to have been confused as the events didn't become clear until later. It may similarly be that he was kept out of the loop because it was feared that Blair would break the news too quickly, and perhaps frighten the public even more, in that the police seemed to be randomly shooting any person who looked slightly like their suspects. The other option is that Blair is not properly in control of those just below himself in the police hierarchy. The leaking and briefing which has gone on against Blair in the last few months may be testament to this. While there may not have been an active conspiracy among them to get rid of him, they may also work autonomously of someone who they do not respect.

None of this shows the Met in a good light. Brian Paddick, a man already hated amongst those on the right for introducing the softly-softly approach on cannabis in Brixton which was later adopted by the Home Secretary when the drug was downgraded to Class C, probably didn't need to do much to get himself removed out of the limelight by those opposed to Blair's reforms of the Met. The possibility that de Menezes was shot simply because he could be, in order to show the screaming tabloids that something was being done about the security situation, and the government, which was cowering in the face of those screams, has not yet been fully discounted. Ian Blair has not yet been cleared. The Met and all those involved in the shooting of Jean Charles will continue to be under a shadow until the IPCC reports are released in full. While those reports should not be rushed, and the CPS should be careful in deciding what to do following the first report, the sooner that we get the reports the better. Only then can the police know what has to be to done to stop this terrible tragedy happening again, and only then will the public be reassured that such a frightening mistake will also not happen again.

Previous postings on Jean Charles de Menezes can be found

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The Sunday Times print edition carried the following which appears to support Paddick's version of events:

"Two senior officers, one a counter-terrorism expert, have given testimony that appears to contradict (Sir Ian) Blair's claims. They have signed statements to the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) that just hours after Jean Charles de Menezes was killed on July 22 they were told that there was a "possibility" that an innocent man had been killed. The officers say they were instructed to carry out an assessment to help handle the expected public relations backlash to the bungled shooting."

"One of the new witnesses is Robert Beckley, an assistant chief-constable of Hertfordshire police, who was visiting the Yard that afternoon for a previously planned meeting to discuss terrorism. Beckley is a senior member of the terrorism committee and is chairman the association's committee on relations with the Muslim community. He also commands a national intelligence unit that monitors tension within ethnic communities."

And it's all change at the IPCC too. The (aptly named?) Laurence Lustgarten, a senior commissioner, is now on "gardening leave" after allegations of sexually inappropriate behaviour were made by a female colleague. He is understood to have denied the allegations.

The IPCC's chief executive Susan Atkins also resigned recently, apparently choosing to leave amicably following a management reorganisation.

These incidents and senior level changes within the IPCC are reported as being unconnected to each other, or to the de Menezes inquiry.

Let's hope nobody remembers Sir Ian's letter that seems to prove he knew something was amiss.

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