Page last updated at 17:21 GMT, Friday, 24 October 2008 18:21 UK

'Everything I trained for proved wrong'

By Dominic Casciani
BBC News

Maria Otone de Menezes
Jean Charles de Menezes's mother, Maria, heard the testimony of C12

For three years she had waited for this moment - to hear from the man who pulled the trigger.

And on Friday, at the Oval cricket ground, within walking distance of Stockwell Tube station, Maria Otone de Menezes heard how her son died on 22 July 2005.

In the witness box at the inquest into his death, which is being held at the ground, was one of the Metropolitan Police's top firearms officers, codenamed C12.

He and his colleague C2 shot dead Jean Charles de Menezes because they thought he was a suicide bomber about to detonate a bomb on a Tube carriage at Stockwell station.

On Friday he spoke for the first time about why he did what he did - and how he would live with the consequences for the rest of his life.

On the morning of Friday 22 July 2005, Londoners were facing an unprecedented situation, with four suicide bombers on the run.

My sincere regrets. I cannot begin to put myself in the position that they are faced with. I am a family man myself
Met Police firearms officer C12

Electrician Jean Charles de Menezes's day started like any other - other than he was now unwittingly living in a block of flats linked to one of the bombers.

C12's day began with a briefing where it was made clear to the officers of the SO19 firearms squad they could be called upon to stop the most dangerous and determined men in the country.

They had trained to shoot a suicide bomber on sight, without warning. But when Jean Charles de Menezes left home, and was identified as the possible suspect, they were not on the scene to challenge him as per orders.

Composite of Hussain Osman
Police say that Osman and Mr de Menezes resembled one another

Mr de Menezes had boarded a bus going to Stockwell station and surveillance officers indicated he had been acting nervously as he had prepared to leave it before entering the Tube station.

C12 said he could not understand why the firearms teams had not been given the order to take charge at this point.

"I remember there being a radio silence," he told the hushed inquest.

"I was very frustrated by this. I could not understand why we were not going State Red.

"[I had] a growing sense of unease that an identified suicide bomber, or potential one, had entered the Tube station."

Then the order came on a radio channel: "All units, State Red, State Red."

If I did not act, members of the public would be killed, colleagues would be killed. I would be killed. I had a duty to protect the public

It was the order for the armed teams to use all means necessary to stop the man.

C12's car was close to the station. He jumped out trying to conceal his Glock hand gun and radio beneath a baggy shirt. He sprinted through the station, jumped the barrier, pushed aside a station attendant who tried to stop him and ran down the escalator.

"I didn't know where he was," said C12. "He could have already been on the Tube, on the platform, or on the escalator."

As he headed towards the bottom of the escalator, an undercover officer spotted him and indicated the northbound platform.

C12 feared he was too late, that the man was on his way into central London - but then realised the train was still on the platform with all of its doors open.

"Can I just pause for a moment?" the officer quietly asked the coroner.

"I know where this is leading to. I'm going to try to be as delicate as I can for the benefit of the family.

"But some things need to be said and I know, quite frankly, this is an awful time for them. I'm going to try to be as sensitive as I can."

Hussain Osman
This police photograph of Hussain Osman was not shown to marksmen
There was another pause.

"My sincere regrets. I cannot begin to put myself in the position that they are faced with. I am a family man myself.

"To lose a son or any member of your family in this situation, I can't begin to imagine and I offer my sincere condolences, I really, really respectfully do that."

C12 told how his years of training and preparations for extreme life-and-death situations had taken over. He had not run. He had moved with a "controlled and purposeful" walk, holding his gun tight against his right leg to hide it from passengers.

His aim had been to get as close as possible to the suspect without revealing himself.

"Did you have any idea what you would have to do at this stage," asked Nick Hilliard QC, for the inquest.

I'm responsible for the death of an innocent man. Something I have to live with all my life

"Primarily to intercept him, to stop him, perhaps to detain him. I did not have any preconceived ideas."

Then another surveillance officer, codenamed Ivor, pointed to Mr de Menezes, saying: "That's him."

Those two words reinforced C12's understanding of the situation he was now confronting.

"It would have been dangerous for us to pause to make [my own] positive identification," he said.

"It would potentially alert the suspect. I must reiterate the speed in which it all happened."

C12 sighed and took a deep breath, but his voice remained clear.

"He [Mr de Menezes] looked and stood up. I have a snapshot of him. He was wearing a blue denim jacket that appeared to be bulky. He came towards us, in my opinion he closed us down."

Point blank range

C12 had brought his handgun up to head level and pointed it at Mr de Menezes. The electrician had approached closer, he said. C12 said he had called out: "Armed police!"

"I could not understand [his] reaction. To be pointed at suddenly and then come towards the potential threat [the gun], I could not understand it.

"I formed the opinion that he is going to detonate, he is going to kill us, and I have to act now to stop this from happening. I had to use force as soon as possible. This was an identified suicide bomber to me."

CCTV image of Hussain Osman
Officers relied on "poor quality" CCTV images of Osman on a bus

The surveillance officer had lunged at Mr de Menezes and pinned him back in the seat.

C12 said there had been something of a scrum, he had brought his weapon over Ivor's body and shot three times into Mr de Menezes's head at point blank range.

"If there could have been any other alternative, you must believe me, that I would have taken it. If I did not act, members of the public would be killed, colleagues would be killed. I would be killed. I had a duty to protect the public."

As C12 began to explain the aftermath, the attempts to get passengers off the train amid fears of a bomb and the chaos of the scene, he went silent from behind the screen hiding his identity.

He asked for water and broke down. The coroner adjourned the inquest for a few minutes to allow the officer to compose himself.

Returning to the witness box, C12 told how he had written up his account - but was consumed with the reality of what had happened.

"A sense of disbelief, shock, sadness and confusion," he said. "Everything I had trained for proved wrong.

"I'm responsible for the death of an innocent man. Something I have to live with all my life."

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