Health and Safety 20 – de Menezes had to be stopped
The officer in charge of police who shot innocent Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes has explained why she told firearms officers to stop him.
Deputy Assistant Commissioner Cressida Dick said she was told five times the man police were following was attempted suicide bomber Hussain Osman.
She told the Old Bailey she believed he had to be stopped from going into the Underground to protect the public.
Trial judge Mr Justice Henriques asked her: “It was not 100% positive identification?”
She replied: “I believed that they believed it was him, but also that they could be wrong.”
Asked what she was thinking at the time, she said: “I did not have any intelligence telling me that he was not carrying a bomb and I believed that he was the person from the day before.”
Given that he may have been carrying easily concealable explosives sheet explosives of a military kind, how could you have intelligence that he wasn’t carrying a bomb?!
Given that he was not a suicide bomber, how could you have intelligence that he wasn’t carrying a bomb?!
Asked if she thought her handling of the situation was proportionate, she said: “I do.”
She was giving evidence at the trial of the Metropolitan Police, which is accused of a “catastrophic” series of failures leading up to the death of Mr de Menezes, who was shot dead at Stockwell Tube station.
Ms Dick said she asked members of her team for a percentage of how certain they were that the man they were following was “Nettletip”, codename for Osman, but was never given an answer.
Earlier in the trial we heard that “One spotter told commanders it was “ridiculous” to ask him for a “percentage certainty” that the target was Osman.” (BBC).
But she said she was also told three times by her Scotland Yard surveillance monitor, codenamed Pat, and twice by her “silver” commander that it was.
Note that both of these people were in the same room as her – that is, they weren’t present at the scene (see the Update section below). People at the scene were telling the operations room that the suspect wasn’t Osman.
Ms Dick told the jury that in a “fast moving situation” there were no “golden rules” on the level of identification needed and that various factors fed her decision that day.
The trial was adjourned until Friday.
Ms Dick told the jury that in a “fast-moving situation” there were no “golden rules” on the level of identification needed and that various factors fed her decision that day. She told how the actions of Mr de Menezes, coupled with the events of the 21 July attempted bombings the day before, had led her to think he must be stopped.
“Firstly, I believe that the surveillance team believed it was him. Secondly, from the behaviours that had been described to me, given that I thought they thought it was him – it could, very, very well be him.
“The behaviours that were described – the nervousness, agitation, the sending of messages, the telephone, getting on and off the bus, added to the picture of someone potentially intent on causing an explosion.
For the moment let’s put to one side the “nervousness” and “agitation”, because we do not know what caused this – he was late for work, but perhaps he thought he was being followed (oh the irony).
I think it would be a struggle to find a bus that didn’t have at least one passenger using the telephone (to say he was late for work, for example), sending messages, and getting off and on the same bus if their Tube station was closed!
“Then, of course, added to that, this person was coming off a bus to enter the same Tube station that the bomber I had seen on the video had entered the day before,” she said.
“That all added up – I cannot be certain – to someone who posed potentially a very high risk to the public.
“The threat we were dealing with at that time was to the public transport system and to the Tube. We had two incidents, 7 July and 21 July.”
She felt that the danger of allowing a potential bomber on to the Tube combined with the risk of losing surveillance in the Underground meant the man had to be stopped even though SO19 specialist firearms teams had not yet arrived.
I think the BBC article is wrong in terms of whether Pat was at the scene or in the operations room:
DAC Dick told the court she had been told three times by a surveillance officer on the scene, codenamed Pat, and twice by her “silver” commander that the man officers had been following was Osman.
Because of a bit of testimony reported in the Telegraph:
A second surveillance officer, identified as “Pat”, told jurors how it had been difficult to communicate over the racket in the control room.
“People were shouting to make themselves heard,” he said. “I had difficulty getting people’s attention because I couldn’t leave my seat.”
Good on the BBC – I wrote to them explaining the bit above about ‘Pat’, and they changed the article.