The Executioner’s Song

“Where the home in the valley meets the damp dirty prison,
Where the executioner’s face is always well hidden,”

Bob Dylan – A Hard Rain’s A-Gonna Fall

So it now transpires that not one single ‘fact’ in the account of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes at Stockwell Tube Station on July 22 was actually a fact at all. On every single substantive point, the account which was hawked around the press with seemingly the full backing of the Metropolitan Police was actually true.

There was no positive identification of de Menezes as a suspect – the surveillance officer was taking a piss at the time he left his block of flats on his final, fateful journey, and could at best have caught sight only the back of his head.

There was no vaulting the ticket barrier at Stockwell Tube Station – he used a pass to get through the ticket barrier like any other commuter and even stopped to pick up a free newspaper on the way.

There was no unusual attore, no padded jacket – without or without wires sticking out of the top – and no suicide belt. He was wearing nothing more unusual than a nornal denim jacket. Here – see for yourself…

He wasn’t chased onto the train by the police – he ran for the train as it pulled into the station as would any other commuter on any other day.

He wasn’t wrestled to the ground at the end of a chase and then shot – he was approached by a surveillance officer having taken his seat on the train without the remost thought that he was being followed. On being challenged, so it seems, only in the sense that this officer called out ‘Police’ to his, he stood up and walked towards the officer, no doubt wondering what the hell was going on, and was then seemingly wrestled back into his seat by this officer only for armed officers from CO19, who’d just entered the train, to go up to him and ‘cap’ him under orders that they should shoot to kill, if necessary.

It’s also been reported elsewhere that the CCTV cameras in Stockwell Tube station ‘may not have been working’, yet the documents leaked to ITV show statements making direct reference to CCTV footage of the whole incident.

What are we to make of all this?

ITV’s line was to focus solely on the catalogue of errors which led to this tragic incident, a case our own Keystone Kops on the trail of the ‘Keystone Kaliphate’ – a term coined by the Honourable Fiend to descibe the failed bombers of the day before. One or two bloggers, meanwhile, are already talking in terms of anything from an extra-judical killing to a cold-blooded execution. The Independent Police Complaints Commission and the government, of course, are saying nothing and treating the matter as sub-judice, although I’m sure investigations into the leaking of these documents are already proceeding apace, not least as the mere fact of this leak suggests that someone with access to these documents already suspects that the ‘fix’ may be in at that the supposedly independent inquiry was already heading down the road of a cover-up.

Certain aspects of the false account of the incident given to the press are clearly readily explained – the person seen wearing a heavy, padded, jacket and vaulting the barrier at Stockwell Tube station, if not de Menezes can only have been one of the plain-clothes firearms officers racing to catch up with him, the padded jacket being necessary to cover his firearm which would have been kep in a shoulder holster.

Other elements of this whole thing are much less clear.

I may have misheard, but ITV’s report seemed to suggest that de Menezes had been identified as an ‘IC2 Male’ which ITV seemed to think meant tht officer thought he was of African appearance – IC2 is actually the police code for an individual of Southern European appearance, a description which does fit de Menezes but not any of the terrorist suspects being sought from the day before.

Is that simply a minor mistake on ITV’s part or was he identified be the police as an IC2 Male, a description which would rule him out as a possible suspect? And if that is the case, why was it reported to ‘Gold Command’ that a positive identification had been made, resulting in authorisation being given to shoot de Menezes without challenge.

The account of what happened on the train, itself, also raises a serious question.

The statement given by the surveillance officer who restrained de Menezes just before he was shot reads:-

“I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side,â€?

“I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting . . . I heard a gunshot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage.�

Whatever else this may be, the officer’s actions as described do not tally with any normal restraint technique used by the Police. Police officers are not trained to restrain suspects in this manner with very good reason – if the suspect has a knife that you haven’t seen then the only thing you’ll achieve by trying to restrain him in this way is to get yourself stabbed in the stomach.

So what was this officer doing here? Did he use such an unorthodox method of restraint because he suspected de Menezes might be a suicide bomber and would trigger an explosion were his arms not pinned to his side?

It seems unlikely as the officer’s stated actions would not have prevented a bomb being triggered if the trigger were already in de Meneze’s hand and, given the unstable nature od the bombs which appear to have been used in the real attacks, could just as easily have triggered the bomb as prevented it beign set off.

Was this, instead, an instinctive act of bravery – an officer throwing himself onto the suspect bomber in the hope that his own body might take the brunt of the blast and spare a life or two as a result. Such self acts are not entire unknown – more than a few soldiers have died in wartime throwing themselves bodily onto hand grenades to try to protect their comrades.

But then that doesn’t fit with the rest of the account, de Menezes got up out his seat and walked towards the officer on a well lit train – the officer would have has several seconds to assess the situation and, most importantly of all, a good clear look at de Menezes’s face…

…and as surveillance officer who must have been briefed thoroughly as to the appearance of the real suspects, he must surely have recognised at that point that they’d got the wrong man.

Looked at this statement, does it not appear that this officer may not have acting to restrain a suspect at all, but trying instead to restrain what he had just identified as an innocent man in the knowledge just behind him were a number of armed police officers with instructions to shoot to kill without giving a challenge? I’m speculating, of course, but this officer’s actions do appear more in keeping with trying to protect de Menezes from his colleagues than trying to restrain a terrorist who may be carrying a bomb.

I wonder if this is, perhaps, the most tragic aspect of this whole case, that in trying to prevent de Menezes being seen as a threat by his colleagues, this officer may have inadvertantly caused his death, his actions being misinterpreted by his colleagues as an effort to prevent a bomb being triggered, causing them to shoot.

I may be right. I may be wrong. I’m speculating here, but that fact that there is room for this kind of speculation suggests that this matter is far from closed, and certainly won’t be closed by whatever finding the Police Complaints Commission arrive at.

Such a catlogue of obvious errors requires a full public enquiry, not least into the circumstances in which a complete and disparagingly fictional account of the death of Jean Charles de Menezes was allowed to stand as ‘fact’ when on every substantive point it was completely innaccurate.

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