Britain’s police watchdog, the Independent Police Complaints Commission (IPCC), has revealed that London police “initially resisted” an investigation into the circumstances of Jean Charles de Menezes’ death on July 22.
The 27-year-old electrician was shot dead a day after attempted bombing attacks on London’s transport system and two weeks after 56 people died in blasts on three subway trains and a bus.
The deputy head of the IPCC, John Wadham, said that the London police caused a delay on what should have been an automatic referral of the De Menezes case to the commission.
“This dispute has caused delay in us taking over the investigation, but we have worked hard to recover the lost ground,” Mr Wadham said.
According to a report by the BBC online news service, the case was not formally handed over to the IPCC until five days after the incident.
London’s police chief, Sir Ian Blair, has admitted writing to the Home Office on the morning of Mr De Menezes’ death asking that the terrorist investigation take precedence over an IPCC probe in the interest of protecting secret intelligence.
Talking to BBC Radio Four, Sir Ian said he would not have written the letter had he wanted to “cover something up.”
“At that stage, I and my officers thought the dead man was a suicide bomber and we were in the middle of the biggest counter-terrorist operation.”
“It is one death out of 57,” he reportedly added.
A lawyer for Mr De Menezes’ family described the situation as a “chaotic mess” and said she had “asked the IPCC how much is incompetence, negligence or gross negligence and how much is something more sinister.”
Police are already under fire after the leaking of investigation papers to Britain’s ITV news presented information about the De Menezes’ shooting which contradicted earlier police reports.
According to the BBC and Sky News, a member of the commission has been suspended over the leak, however this has been neither confirmed or denied by an IPCC spokesman.
The Brazilian government has responded angrily to the latest developments and said it will send an investigation team to Britain next week.
“This news, accompanied by startling images, on the tragic circumstances surrounding the death of Brazilian citizen Jean Charles de Menezes aggravates the Brazilian government’s sense of indignation,” a Brazilian foreign ministry statement said.
Due to arrive in London on August 22, Brazil’s Deputy Attorney-General Wagner Goncalves will head a delegation seeking an explanation from British investigators.