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Thursday, August 18, 2005 

"Sir" Ian Blair personally tried to stop independent investigation into Stockwell shooting.

Britain's top police officer, the Scotland Yard commissioner Sir Ian Blair, attempted to stop an independent external investigation into the shooting of a young Brazilian mistaken for a suicide bomber, it emerged yesterday.

Sir Ian wrote to John Gieve, the permanent secretary at the Home Office, on July 22, the morning Jean Charles de Menezes was shot at short range on the London tube. The commissioner argued for an internal inquiry into the killing on the grounds that the ongoing anti-terrorist investigation took precedence over any independent look into his death.

According to senior police and Whitehall sources, Sir Ian was concerned that an investigation by the Independent Police Complaints Commission could impact on national security and intelligence. He was also understood to be worried that an outside investigation would damage the morale of CO19, the elite firearms section working under enormous pressure.

Later that same day, after an exchange of opinions between Sir Ian, the Home Office and the IPCC, the commissioner was overruled. A Whitehall insider said: "We won that battle. There's no ambiguity in the legislation, they had to do it."

Even more damning than "Sir" Ian Blair's attempts to stop an independent investigation required by law is the way the IPCC was then further obstructed:

But a statement from the Met yesterday showed that despite the agreement to allow in independent investigators, the IPCC was kept away from Stockwell tube in south London, the scene of the shooting, for a further three days. This runs counter to usual practice, where the IPCC would expect to be at the scene within hours.

That was in the Guardian this morning. Since then, the reality has got even worse:

Scotland Yard "initially resisted" the investigation into the shooting of Jean Charles de Menezes, the Independent Police Complaints Commission has said.

The inquiry was not formally handed over to the IPCC until five days after the Brazilian was shot dead by police on a Tube, BBC News now understands.

Three days, then five days. During that time it appears that the CCTV footage was either removed, or that the IPCC was told that it wasn't working or that the press was misled into thinking it wasn't working. There's been no conclusive answers on that score. Thankfully, the lawyers for the de Menezes family now do seem to be making their voices heard:

Lawyers for the family of the innocent Brazilian shot dead by police demanded today to be told whether misinformation about the killing was due to incompetence by officials or "something sinister".

Gareth Peirce and Harriet Wistrich, acting for the family of Jean Charles de Menezes, said many of their urgent questions remained unanswered after meeting investigators this morning.

Ms Peirce said her main concern remained why the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC) had not been called in immediately to begin the inquiry.

None of this leaves the Met or the IPCC investigation in a good light. "Sir" Ian Blair at best was misinformed (being head of the Met, this would be damning of his leadership and the officers below him) about the shooting, and at worst actively tried to cover it up by delaying the investigation. If the latter is true, he also lied in the Friday press conference. It's still not clear how or why the documents from the IPCC were leaked to ITV News. Was it by a whistleblower who wanted the misinformation from the police corrected, or was it to draw attention to a cover-up which was actively being organised? The blocking of an independent investigation doesn't quite vindicate my suspicions that this shooting was an attempt to win plaudits for courage from the press and to stop investigations into the police use of fire-arms, but it also doesn't disprove it either. At the moment the whole thing smacks of a cover-up. Even the notorious right wing rag the Daily Mail asked a similar question on its front page today.

The lawyers are right to ask for an independent inquiry, and one needs to carried out quickly. While we've had a bad recent record in this country with inquiries, i.e. both the Hutton and Butler reports, we need one here to properly establish the truth of what happened on that morning, the police conduct following the shooting, and the IPCC's inquiries up until the leak. The faith in the IPCC's investigation has been shaken too far for their report to be considered fair or an accurate representation of what actually happened.

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