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Jurors reject claims Menezes death was a 'lawful killing'

Video by Kate WILLIAMS

Latest update : 2008-12-13

Jurors at an inquest into the 2005 death in the London Underground of a Brazilian national, Jean Charles de Menezes, rejected claims that he had been the victim of a "lawful" police killing and instead delivered an inconclusive open verdict.

AFP - The family of a Brazilian man mistakenly killed by anti-terror police in London said Friday an inquest into his death had delivered a "damning critique" of the police after an inconclusive "open" verdict. 
Jurors at the inquest into the 2005 death of Jean Charles de Menezes had been barred from returning a verdict of unlawful killing by the coroner, who gave them only the options of lawful killing or an open verdict.
But his family were delighted that the jury rejected police claims over the killing, in particular the suggestion that de Menezes had moved towards a police marksman in the moments before he was shot after being mistaken for a failed suicide bomber.
His mother, Maria Otone de Menezes, said she felt "reborn" after being informed of the open verdict at her home in Brazil.
In a message read out at a press conference hosted by the Justice4Jean campaign, she said: "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."
The acting head of London's Metropolitan Police, Paul Stephenson, said the death was a "tragedy," but stressed that officers had been operating in a "unique situation."
De Menezes was shot seven times in the head at a London Underground train station on July 22, 2005, the day after a failed attempt to replicate the attacks of July 7 when four suicide bombers killed 52 people.
Police had followed the 27-year-old electrician onto a train in the mistaken belief that he was failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman, who lived in De Menezes's block of flats.
Asad Rehman from the Justice4Jean campaign said the de Menezes family believed the jury had been "gagged" when a verdict of unlawful killing was ruled out.
"Yet the jury have come back with a damning critique of the police and its failures," he said, speaking on behalf of the family.
While praising the jury, the family slammed the conduct of the coroner and called for a judicial review into the case.
"After three months of evidence, 100 witnesses and millions of pounds, the coroner, Sir Michael Wright, has presided over a complete whitewash," they said in a statement.
"He has failed on every count of the purpose of an inquest investigation," they added.
The jurors challenged police claims about the killing in answering a series of questions put to them by the coroner.
Specifically they rejected a firearms officer's claim that he shouted "armed police" before opening fire at de Menezes, and said the Brazilian did not move towards one of the officers before he was pinned to his seat and killed.
The Metropolitan Police was heavily criticised in a report in August 2007 on the killing, although then police chief Ian Blair escaped censure.
Stephenson apologised to the de Menezes family, saying: "He was an innocent man and we must and do accept full responsibility for his death."
"For somebody to lose his life in such circumstances is something the Metropolitan Police Service deeply regrets," the acting commissioner added.
"In the face of enormous challenges faced by officers on that day, we made the most terrible mistake. I am sorry."
Over the course of the inquest, jurors heard more than seven weeks of evidence from around 100 witnesses, including the two officers who shot de Menezes at Stockwell station in south London.


Date created : 2008-12-12