No sign of cover-up in London shooting, Brazil says

  • World
  • Tuesday, 23 Aug 2005

By Gideon Long

LONDON (Reuters) - Brazil's ambassador to Britain said on Tuesday he saw no evidence to suggest British police had staged a cover-up over the killing of an innocent Brazilian whom they mistook for a would-be suicide bomber. 

Ambassador Mancel Gomes Pereira said that, at present, he and Brazilian investigators believed police who shot 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes on a London underground train a month ago had acted in good faith. 

"At this point in time, we don't think so," Gomes Pereira told a news conference when asked if he felt the police had tried to cover their tracks. "At this moment in time, we don't have any reason to believe that." 

De Menezes, an electrician living in London, was shot dead on July 22 by police who thought he was carrying a bomb. 

London was in a frenzy at the time following the suicide bombings of July 7, which killed 52 people on the city's transport network, and similar attempted bombings on July 21, the day before de Menezes was killed. 

The shooting -- and the way it was handled -- have caused intense embarrassment to British police at a time when they are still investigating last month's bombings and trying to prevent further attacks. 

Police apologised for the shooting, but de Menezes' family has accused them of lying and say Britain's most senior police officer Ian Blair should resign. Human rights activists say officers must be held accountable. 

The Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), which probes all fatal police shootings, has launched an inquiry into the death but said on Tuesday its findings would not be published until at least Christmas. 

Speaking at the inquiry's brief opening session, a lawyer representing the IPCC said criminal proceedings "may, and I emphasise the word may" result from the report. 

A separate inquest into de Menezes' death opened on Tuesday but was suspended for six months, pending the IPCC report. 

A team of Brazilian investigators is in Britain this week to meet police, IPCC members and lawyers representing de Menezes' family. 

"Our task here is basically to look into the circumstances around the death of Jean Charles de Menezes and keep up a dialogue with the British authorities involved with the case," said Gomes Pereira, flanked by Brazilian investigators at the country's embassy in London. 

Last week, leaked documents from the IPCC investigation cast doubt on initial accounts from police and witnesses that de Menezes had been behaving suspiciously and had tried to flee. 

Blair has praised the actions of his armed officers and has rejected resignation calls. He has been endorsed by his namesake, Prime Minister Tony Blair. 

Families of the 52 victims of the July 7 bombings say the row over de Menezes' death has overshadowed the real issue -- the murder of their loved ones. 

(Additional reporting by Jeremy Lovell) 

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