Page last updated at 13:57 GMT, Tuesday, 7 October 2008 14:57 UK

Officer fears repeat of Menezes

Jean Charles de Menezes
Jean Charles de Menezes was killed the day after failed London bombings

An innocent person could be shot dead by police again, a senior officer has admitted at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said police aimed to minimise the risk to the public.

But Ms Dick, who was in charge of the operation on the day Mr de Menezes was killed, said this could be done only to a "less than perfect extent".

Mr de Menezes, 27, was mistaken for a suicide bomber and shot dead in 2005.

The Brazilian was shot seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube station in south London on 22 July 2005, by police who believed he was failed bomber Hussain Osman.

'High risk'

Michael Mansfield QC, counsel for the de Menezes family, asked Ms Dick if such an incident could happen again.

"I'm afraid, sir, I do believe that this or something like this could happen again. The nature of these operations is that they are incredibly high risk to all concerned," she said.

"And that is because of the nature of the threat that we face from suicide terrorists, and the difficulty that there is in dealing with such a threat and the very fast timescale in which these things can happen."

She added: "Our job is to reduce the risk to everybody as best as we possibly can all the time. That is what we set out to do.

"But I do fear that in the future a bomber might not be prevented from setting a bomb, and there would be a huge scrutiny of why we did not manage to prevent that.

"And equally, I pray it doesn't happen, but it is possible that an innocent member of the public might die in circumstances like this.

"Our job is to minimise the risks. Given the huge scale of the risks, we may only be able to do that to a less than perfect extent."

'Full responsibility'

Ms Dick responded to allegations that she told another senior officer that the first hour of the operation had been "appalling".

"You can't get everything in terms of planning right immediately so there is always a period of needing to get the structure right," she said.

Ms Dick denied that either she or Scotland Yard had a problem with admitting that things went wrong.

"I regard myself as somebody who will always take full responsibility for what I have done. I will be quick to say if I think I have done something wrong," she said.

Ms Dick was asked about the failure of a firearms team to go to a block of flats linked to Osman in Tulse Hill, south London, where Mr de Menezes lived.

Mr Mansfield said: "I am going to ask you - I'm afraid it will be a repeated theme - there were serious breakdowns in communication at the very least on that night."

She replied: "I don't know that, sir... If that is what happened, then that sounds like a miscommunication."

'Very focused'

Mr Mansfield asked the DAC whether she was "on the ball" on the day of the shooting or rushed off her feet.

Ms Dick said: "I was very, very focused. I would say I was extremely on the ball.

She added: "It was busy - I didn't leave the room until 11.30am for the first time - and there was a great deal going on.

"During that time I was continuously talking to people and making decisions. I would not describe myself as rushed off my feet, certainly not."

Ms Dick was the designated officer for Operation Kratos, the Metropolitan Police's codename for special tactics to deal with a suicide bomber.

The day before Mr de Menezes was fatally shot, four suicide bombers tried and failed to set off explosions on London's public transport network.

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