Page last updated at 16:56 GMT, Friday, 12 December 2008

Open verdict at Menezes inquest


Reaction to verdict from family members, police and IPCC

The jury has returned an open verdict at the inquest into the death of Jean Charles de Menezes, whom police mistook for a suicide bomber.

It rejected the police account Mr de Menezes was killed lawfully by two officers who shot him seven times at Stockwell Tube in south London.

His mother, Maria Otone de Menezes, said she was very happy and felt "reborn" after hearing the verdict.

The Metropolitan Police said the Brazilian's death was a tragic mistake.

After the verdict was announced the de Menezes family lawyer said officers should be investigated for perjury - a call immediately rejected by the Independent Police Complaints Commission.

The inquest jury was given the choice of two possible verdicts, but chose to reject the option that Mr Menezes was killed lawfully by the police.

Earlier in the inquest the jury was instructed not to return a verdict of unlawful killing.

'Feel reborn'

The 10 jury members were asked 12 specific questions about whether or not a series of events on 22 July 2005 contributed to the 27-year-old's death.

After a week of deliberations, a majority of eight to two returned an open verdict and said they did not believe officers had shouted "armed police" before opening fire.

We have spoken to the whole family in Brazil and they like us are vindicated by the jury's verdict
Patricia da Silva Armani
Cousin of Jean Charles de Menezes

They said they believed Mr de Menezes had stood up from his seat before being shot. However they did not believe he had moved towards the first officer who opened fire.

They also rejected that Mr de Menezes' innocent behaviour had increased suspicions.

Mrs de Menezes said in a message sent from her home in Brazil: "I am very happy with the verdict. Since the moment the coroner ruled out unlawful killing, I was feeling very sad. But today I feel reborn."

Mr de Menezes' cousin Patricia da Silva Armani, speaking in London, said: "Today is an important day for our family. We have spoken to the whole family in Brazil and they like us are vindicated by the jury's verdict.

"It's clear the jury would have reached an unlawful killing verdict if they had not been gagged by the coroner.

"Mistakes of the police are now clear. Action must be taken against the officers responsible."

'Shocking tragedy'

Following the verdict, the Acting Met Commissioner Sir Paul Stephenson said Mr de Menezes' death had been a "most terrible mistake", which he "deeply regretted".

"He was an innocent man and we must accept full responsibility for his death," he said.

He said the force now had to "learn from events to minimise the chances of this ever happening again".

Home Secretary Jacqui Smith said the death was "a profoundly shocking tragedy".

Jean Charles de Menezes
Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead on a Tube train at Stockwell

"What we have learnt from the accounts of the tragic events that day reminds us all of the extremely demanding circumstances under which the police work to protect us from further terrorist attack," she added.

Coroner Sir Michael Wright, who presided over the three-month inquest held at the Oval cricket ground in London, had previously said the facts did not justify allowing the jury to consider an unlawful killing.

Throughout the inquest, Metropolitan Police officers told the hearings they honestly believed the Brazilian was one of the four failed bombers who attempted to strike London on 21 July 2005.

But Mr de Menezes' family and supporters challenged this version of events.

They said they wanted answers to why surveillance officers could not identify the man they were following - and why two specialist officers shot the electrician at close range.

'Numerous obstacles'

De Menezes family lawyer Harriet Wistrich said the police officers who claimed to have shouted warnings before firing should be investigated for possible perjury.

"There was certainly evidence of perjury by certain officers and the CPS should look at it again at this stage and I am sure they will," she said.

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) said Ms Wistrich was incorrect.

A spokesman said: "It is wrong to construe that there has been possible perjury from the findings of the jury because they were asked to decide on the balance of probability.

"The jury could not indicate whether they believed certain witnesses were mistaken or lied."

Asad Rehman, of the Justice4Jean campaign, said the jury had been "gagged" by not being able to return a verdict of unlawful killing.

"There were numerous obstacles placed in the path of that jury. The coroner failed to resist the incredible pressure put on him by the five separate police legal teams and the jury was prevented from considering all the verdicts including unlawful killing," he said.

'Proportionate actions'

Police Federation chairman Paul McKeever said the verdict marked the end of "a long and traumatic inquiry" for the de Menezes family and the police.

"The officers involved in this incident believed their actions were proportionate and necessary from the information available to them at the time," he said.

Did officers shout 'armed police'? NO
Did Mr de Menezes move towards officers? NO
Did difficulty in identifying the man under surveillance lead to his death? NO
Did the behaviour of Mr de Menezes increasing suspicion among officers lead to his death? NO

Chief Constable Ken Jones, president of the Association of Chief Police Officers, said the officers were "breaking new ground in their determination to confront men believed to be intent on mass murder".

"They went forward and did what they sincerely believed to be right to protect us. They went forward believing that, at any moment, they might be killed," he said.

IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick described Mr de Menezes' death as "truly shocking", adding that police needed to make operational changes.

Judicial review

The de Menezes family called on the CPS to re-examine the case to see whether a criminal prosecution could be brought.

They also want the IPCC to review their inquiry into the death in respect of disciplinary action against police officers and are calling on the home secretary to suspend the "shoot-to-kill" policy.

They plan to apply for judicial review of the coroner's decision not to offer the jury the option of returning a verdict of unlawful killing.

The CPS, which decided in 2006 that no police officers should face criminal prosecution over the killing, said it would "consider the verdicts and any fresh evidence very carefully and decide whether we need to review our decision".

The coroner will write to the acting commissioner, the home secretary and the Metropolitan Police Authority to raise issues over police practices.

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