August 18, 2005

How governments lie-2: The London killing

In a previous post titled How governments lie, I warned about how early accounts that official sources put out in the wake of some major event often have only the remotest connection to the facts and are usually designed to imprint in the public mind what the governments want the public to believe.

It looks like the killing on July 22 of an innocent Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes man in a London subway station is following the same pattern. If you recall, in that case the official story put out was that the man was directly linked to a terrorist investigation and had been under surveillance, was wearing a bulky jacket on a very hot day, refused to obey a police order to stop, ran away from the police, vaulted over the ticket barrier, and was shot when he tripped and fell. His highly suspicious behavior seemed to make the shooting excusable.

Now on August 14 the London Observer newspaper has a long story that says that all these assertions were false. Here are items from the story:

Initial claims that de Menezes was targeted because he was wearing a bulky coat, refused to stop when challenged and then vaulted the ticket barriers have all turned out to be false. He was wearing a denim jacket, used a standard Oyster electronic card to get into the station and simply walked towards the platform unchallenged.….

One witness, Chris Wells, 28, a company manager, said he saw about 20 police officers, some armed, rushing into the station before a man jumped over the barriers with police giving chase.

In fact, by the time the armed officers arrived de Menezes was already heading down towards the train. It now seems certain that the man seen vaulting the barrier was one of the armed officers in hot pursuit. (my emphasis)

Some events in de Menezes' life shed further light on his behavior.

For de Menezes life in London was for the most part uneventful. He had been stopped by police a few times as part of routine stop and search inquiries, once having his bag examined by officers outside Brixton tube station.

On each occasion the police had asked him to stop and he did so. However, on each occasion the officers concerned were in full uniform.

Two weeks before he was killed, de Menezes had been attacked by a gang of white youths, seemingly at random. According to friends this experience left him shaken and nervous.…

No one knows what went through the young man's mind in the last moments of his life. Having been attacked just weeks earlier, he may have believed the casually dressed white men chasing him were part of the same gang. He may have been thinking of the experience of his cousin who was caught by immigration officers in America and deported before he had the chance to finish saving for his dream home. Now de Menezes is dead and no one will ever know.

A subsequent Guardian story on August 17 says that secret leaked reports say that he had been seated in the train and was not even running when he was shot, and had been overpowered by the security forces and in their grip when he was shot.

The young Brazilian shot dead by police on a London tube train in mistake for a suicide bomber had already been overpowered by a surveillance officer before he was killed, according to secret documents revealed last night.

It also emerged in the leaked documents that early allegations that he was running away from police at the time of the shooting were untrue and that he appeared unaware that he was being followed.…

CCTV footage shows Mr de Menezes was not wearing a padded jacket, as originally claimed, and that he walked calmly through the barriers at Stockwell station, collecting a free newspaper before going down the escalator. Only then did he run to catch the train.

A man sitting opposite him is quoted as saying: "Within a few seconds I saw a man coming into the double doors to my left. He was pointing a small black handgun towards a person sitting opposite me. He pointed the gun at the right hand side of the man's head. The gun was within 12 inches of the man's head when the first shot was fired.".…

The documents reveal that a member of the surveillance team, who sat nearby, grabbed Mr de Menezes before he was shot: "I heard shouting which included the word 'police' and turned to face the male in the denim jacket. He immediately stood up and advanced towards me and the CO19 [firearms squad] officers ... I grabbed the male in the denim jacket by wrapping both my arms around his torso, pinning his arms to his side. I then pushed him back on to the seat where he had been previously sitting ... I then heard a gun shot very close to my left ear and was dragged away on to the floor of the carriage."

There is an interesting sidelight about the closed circuit televisions (CCTV) that are everywhere on the London underground system and would have provided footage from dozens of cameras covering the Stockwell ticket hall, escalators, platforms and train carriages. Pictures from those cameras were widely shown by the police in their investigation of the earlier (July 7) bombings.

But in the initial report, police said most of the cameras were not working. The secret report revealed, however, that it was the CCTV that showed de Menezes walking slowly and not vaulting the turnstile. It is always interesting how evidence seems to "disappear" when the information it could provide might be embarrassing for the government. Could it be possible that the official authorities put out the story that the CCTV was not working hoping that they thus would not have to show them to the public and reveal that they contradicted the official story?

I ended my earlier post by saying that this is why I always take initial news reports of such events with a grain of salt. I believe that all governments, without exception, lie to their people, routinely and without shame. This event only confirms my view.


If "Intelligent Design" is to be put on a par with evolution, surely the theory of "Intelligent Falling" (IF) as a competitor to gravity must be close behind? The editors of The Onion think so. (Thanks to Nicole for the link.)

The article quotes IF spokespersons who say: "Things fall not because they are acted upon by some gravitational force, but because a higher intelligence, 'God' if you will, is pushing them down….Gravity - which is taught to our children as a law - is founded on great gaps in understanding. The laws predict the mutual force between all bodies of mass, but they cannot explain that force."

IF advocates "insist they are not asking that the theory of gravity be banned from schools, but only that students be offered both sides of the issue so they can make an informed decision."

The article also points out that scientists admit that "Einstein's ideas about gravity are mathematically irreconcilable with quantum mechanics. This fact, Intelligent Falling proponents say, proves that gravity is a theory in crisis."

Sounds convincing to me. I never liked gravity anyway. It was always bringing me down.


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The Onion article is humorous, but was not the first to make the joke. :)

Posted by Erin on August 18, 2005 09:31 AM

Mano, Have been reading about Mr. Menezes, as you have, and wonder, given the stories of Mr. Diallo in New York and now Menezes in Britain, why immigrants continue to want to come to the U.S. or Great Britain. Are things so bad in their own countries that they feel things can't be worse here, or is it that the images of the UK and the US as places of opportunity still dominant in the world of images?

Also, I'm still living in the bucolic world of PBS police procedurals, I guess, but when did the British police start being armed to the teeth?

Posted by catherine on August 18, 2005 09:40 AM

catherine: the short answer is yes, many countries are much worse than the US or Britain.

I was born in Istanbul, but grew up in London. When I asked my parents why we moved, the answer started with "well the last straw was when I was pushing you around town in a stroller and found myself crossing the road regularly to avoid the soldiers". Now this was shortly before a coup, and the country is normally much safer than that, but it makes me appreciate how much worse things could be than they are right here right now.

I don't mean to sugggest that we should turn a blind eye to the shortcomings of our own governments, but I think your question about why people want to immigrate is an important one, and this is part of the answer.

Posted by eldan on August 18, 2005 02:09 PM

In a related note, my favorite Christian website, is back up again. I cannot force you to be saved, but perhaps this web site will help you on your path.

Posted by csh11 on August 19, 2005 08:06 AM

It was a cruel and sophisticated hoax, designed to frighten the public and any bombers who are not up for suicide. To make it look realistic the Police told lots of conflicting stories and even faked attempts at engineering a cover-up.

Where he is now, who knows? Witness Protection type scheme probably. Detached house with a walk-in closet, etc. But not in a wooden box.

Jean Charles was not on the train. See the explanation in:

Posted by who on November 25, 2005 06:06 PM