Mon, Mar 20, 2006 - Page 7 News List

Testimony eases the pressure on London police chief

THE OBSERVER , LONDON

The first detailed police account of the aftermath of the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Brazilian killed in London last summer after being mistaken for a terror suspect, was revealed on Saturday.

The testimony by a top Scotland Yard officer confirms that the police did not know for nearly 24 hours that they had shot a man with no terrorist links. His account backs claims by the head of the London Metropolitan Police (known as the Met), Sir Ian Blair, that he was unaware until the following morning that de Menezes was innocent.

Deputy Assistant Commissioner Alan Given, one of the officers in command of the Met's firearms unit, also reveals that the officers were initially "buoyant" after the shooting, thinking they had "protected Londoners" from a dangerous assailant.

The account -- the first from anyone directly involved in the shooting or its aftermath -- comes in an exclusive interview with Given, the most senior officer directly responsible for the CO19 tactical firearms team who shot de Menezes at Stockwell tube station in south London on July 22 last year. Given met the officers who killed de Menezes that afternoon, and later attended a series of high-level meetings about the investigation into it.

His evidence goes to the heart of the "Stockwell II" inquiry by the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) into Blair's claims that he was not briefed about de Menezes's innocence until the following day. If the inquiry were to find against Sir Ian, it would put pressure on him to resign. "Stockwell 1" is the already-completed IPCC report into the shooting itself, which has gone to the Crown Prosecution Service.

Given said that he saw Assistant Commissioner Alan Brown, who was co-ordinating work by several Yard departments on the shooting, shortly before he went home at 11pm on the Friday.

"When I left, I had no indication that the wrong person had been shot," Given said.

"Alan had no clue that we had made a mistake. I did not learn the truth until the following day," he said.

Last week, the commissioner was the subject of a series of media leaks that led to calls for his resignation.

He apologized for taping phone calls with IPCC officials and with the Attorney General, the government's chief legal advisor, Lord Goldsmith.

Later reports that his private office knew that de Menezes was innocent by the afternoon of 22 July were denied.

Together with other senior officers, Given insisted that Sir Ian had become the target of a "grossly unjustified" campaign.

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