Sunday, July 24, 2005
the Metropolitan Police Service regrets...
The BBC today, Sunday, reports that the young man was a Brazilian electrician unconnected to the incidents.
Scotland Yard said Mr Menezes, who lived in Brixton, south London, was completely unconnected to the bomb attacks and added: "For somebody to lose their life in such circumstances is a tragedy and one that the Metropolitan Police Service regrets."
The Brazilian government has expressed its shock at the killing and Brazil's foreign minister Celso Amorim will seek an explanation from foreign secretary Jack Straw in London.
Police have apparently refused to release details about what happened - so once again we are dependent on sometimes contradictory statements in the press.
Sir Ian Blair, Scotland Yard's commissioner, told a news conference on Friday that the man had been directly linked to the attacks the day before. Why did he say so? What else has he said that is unsubstantiated assumption?
The latest, very brief, Scotland Yard statement doesn't say whether the 27-year-old victim, Jean Charles de Menezes, spoke English.
We don't know whether the plainclothes policemen identified themselves as such.
We don't know why the (presumably well-trained) policeman who threw himself down on the victim in the train carriage didn't simply grab his arms instead of shooting five bullets into his head. The ( Sunday Telegraph) suggests that a shoot to kill policy is now in operation. The policeman was only "obeying orders" it seems.
We don't know whether any of the four bombing suspects, whose photographs were released on Friday, have been arrested.
We don't really know much at all. And, as always, when facts are missing, people will make assumptions. Assumptions can be dangerous.
A good friend of mine evidently feels sympathy for the police and thinks that it was one of those situations where not to have acted could have brought about many more deaths; "When you're all hyped up and frightened, of course you will want to shoot - to stop him from detonating his bomb..."
It is a point of view. I feel compassion for the policeman involved - but why was he so hyped up? What evidence had convinced him that the man struggling underneath him really was a mass killer? Evidence- if there was any rather than mere suspicion - was wrong. This was pre-emptive killing - a concept that is gaining more and more acceptability.
I can't get out of my mind the last confused and terrified moments in the life of an innocent Brazilian visitor to London, fleeing for his life from men in plain clothes. His conscience was probably as clear as the average person's - but he ran. In the same situation, what would any of us have done?
There doesn't seem to be much more to say. But there is much to think and feel.
Charles Clarke, the Home Secretary, plans to go abroad on a family holiday this week.