Close relatives of the innocent Brazilian shot dead at a London tube station have accused police of pressuring them and treating them as stupid when British officials went to Brazil and offered them a £15,000 (US$27,000) payment.
Scotland Yard confirmed at the weekend that a £15,000 ex gratia payment had been offered to the family, stressing: "It does not inhibit any future claim that the family may have against the Metropolitan police service."
Earlier media reports had wrongly suggested the family had been offered £500,000, though relatives of the Brazilian, Jean Charles de Menezes, could win substantial compensation if they sue the police.
The Met offer was made in a complex legal letter in English. The family speak Portuguese. The offer was put forward when a senior Met officer and British diplomats visited the family in Brazil without family lawyers being present.
On Sunday, Deputy Prime Minister John Prescott appeared to criticize the police for their handling of the visit to the family, while expressing support for the Metropolitan police commissioner, Sir Ian Blair, who is facing calls to resign.
Prescott said it would be "terrible" if the family's allegations were true.
"I haven't seen the letter and I think it would be terrible if it was done that way. It does sound not a very sensitive way to deal with such a difficult matter," he said.
De Menezes, 27, was killed on July 22 by officers who mistook him for a suicide bomb suspect. Over the weekend his family made allegations against the police stemming from their Aug. 1 meeting with British officials.
The victim's brother, Giovani, said: "They thought we were poor people, stupid people. We may be poor but we are not that stupid. We will not exchange money for my brother's life, but we will punish them."
De Menezes' parents claimed they had been pressurized into meeting the British delegation and had not even been told they were coming. The letter they were handed says the sum of £15,000 was "by way of compensation to you for the death of Jean Charles. This payment is called an ex gratia payment."
Maria de Menezes told the Mail on Sunday newspaper she started crying when she saw the letter.
"I thought it was disgusting for this policeman to be talking about money when my son was only just buried. I did not like having to sit near such a man," she said.
Gareth Peirce, the solicitor representing the family, said their treatment by police was "disturbing" and could amount to a "deliberate attempt to ensnare families" into agreeing a bad deal without their lawyers being present.
"The family have the strongest feeling that someone is trying to pull the wool over their eyes," Peirce said, adding that the whole point of families having their own legal advice in such a situation was precisely so that they would not be pressurized into "inappropriate agreements or decisions."
A delegation of Brazilian officials were to visit Britain yesterday to question the commission investigating the fatal shooting. London's police force has come under heavy pressure over the de Menezes killing after leaked documents cast doubt on police reports explaining how officers mistook him for a suicide bomber and shot him eight times. Two Brazilian officials plan to meet members of the Independent Police Complaints Commission this week to discuss the investigation.