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Last Updated: Wednesday, 28 September 2005, 17:23 GMT 18:23 UK
'Only God knows our pain'
By Becky Branford
BBC News

Menezes family leaving Stockwell station
The family pass the tributes on their way out of the station
Outside Stockwell Tube, a police sign warns members of the public to beware of muggers operating in the area.

But the reporters thronged around the station entrance on Wednesday lunchtime were following a very different story - the story of a member of the public who became, mistakenly, a victim of the police.

Maria Otone de Menezes and her husband, Matozinhos Otone da Silva, along with five other family members, had left Brazil for the first time in their lives to visit the scene of their son Jean Charles's death at the hands of police.

It was difficult to read Matozinhos's feelings as the thin 66-year-old walked slowly from a black people-carrier to the station entrance.

His lined, brown face looked impassive - worn by jetlag, and bemused by the domestic political furore he had been pitched into, as evidenced by the bank of photographers waiting for the family.

Flower tributes

The family stood outside the station in silence for a few moments, looking at the tribute of flowers and mementoes to their son, a 27-year-old electrician, before disappearing into the station, the metal grilles sliding shut behind them, for about an hour.

They didn't just destroy his life, but my life
Maria Otone de Menezes

"This is not a fashion show, somebody died here," said Gleu Vargas, a Brazilian woman who had said she was visiting Britain to join the family's Justice 4 Jean campaign because she "had to do something".

"When the violence happened here involving British police, people in Brazil were shocked. They think it is safe here.

"He is Brazilian, it happened in England. Whether in Iraq or England, this is one life. This is the point."

Veteran campaigner Bianca Jagger was among those waiting outside Stockwell Tube station for the family to emerge.

"I'm here to give my support," she said.

Anger

Finally the family emerged again, stopping in front of reporters.

Maria appeared bewildered and upset, clinging onto a family member for support, and looking away at the ground when questions were shouted in Portuguese.

press conference
Mrs Menezes' anger came out at the press conference

But at a news conference later in Lambeth Town Hall in Brixton, south London, her anger became clear.

"Only God knows the pain I am going through. We want justice for our son, whose innocent life was taken.

"They didn't just destroy his life, but my life... He was killed like a mad dog."

Like many of the estimated 60,000-100,000 Brazilians in London, Jean Charles came looking to work, and sent money home to his parents' modest farm in Gonzaga, a small municipality in the state of Minas Gerais.

"He came to contribute, to be productive," his father told the news conference. "Not to be destroyed."

Jean Charles's brother, Giovani, said the family was sure the police "lied to us, lied to cover up what happened".

He said he could not believe none of the nine cameras inside the station had been working as police said.

Political points

Later Alex Pereira, cousin of Jean Charles, said angrily that "while the police who killed my cousin were sent on holiday, a woman who told the truth went to jail", referring to an unnamed woman recently arrested over the leak of details which contradicted police reports that Jean Charles had been acting suspiciously.

Menezes family leaving Stockwell station
The visit to the scene of the shooting lasted an hour

The family confirmed they would not meet Metropolitan police commissioner Sir Ian Blair, and said they would have felt "uncomfortable" had he accompanied them in their visit to the Tube station, because he was "responsible for the team of police who killed Jean".

Alistair Alexander, who works on the family's Justice4Jean campaign, earlier told the BBC News website that although the family had suddenly found themselves embroiled in a British domestic political storm, their story must not be used to score political points.

"We have no links to the Stop the War Coalition... this is nothing to do with Iraq," he said.

"The family are not here for someone else's agenda. We, the campaign, are here to help them try and speak."


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