One of the police marksmen who killed Jean Charles de Menezes on a London Underground train was yesterday accused of embellishing and exaggerating his version of events in order to convince people that he believed he had shot a suicide bomber.
The officer, identified as C12, told an inquest into the Brazilian's death that, upon entering the train carriage, he shouted "armed police", raised his gun, and only opened fire when the 27-year-old ignored his warning.
But Michael Mansfield QC, representing the De Menezes family, told the hearing yesterday that none of the six police officers inside the carriage, nor any of the civilians within range, could corroborate C12's version of events.
Mr Mansfield also said that C12 had "visually distorted" his story by saying Mr De Menezes was wearing a bulky denim jacket before the shooting.
He added: "What you did was to grossly exaggerate what you saw in order to convince people that he had been a terrorist about to explode a bomb." Asked if there was a possibility that this was the case, C12 replied: "Absolutely none whatsoever."
Mr Mansfield then asked C12 if he embellished his story while giving evidence on Friday by suggesting that Mr De Menezes had his hands clenched as he approached the officers.
C12 replied: "I am not embellishing anything. I did not see his palms, I saw the outside of his hands. I cannot say whether they were clenched."
When Mr Mansfield alleged C12 was "consumed by one thought – he's a bomber and I'm going to stop him", C12 replied: "No sir, not at all."
The officer was one of two marksmen who shot Mr De Menezes on22 July 2005 at Stockwell Tube station, south London, after the Brazilian was wrongly identified as failed suicide bomber Hussain Osman.
Mr Mansfield said his case was that C12 did not "honestly and genuinely" think Mr De Menezes presented a lethal threat when he shot him, the inquest heard.
Coroner Sir Michael Wright asked Mr Mansfield: "Are you putting a case that this officer did not honestly and genuinely believe at the time that he pulled the trigger that this man presented an immediate and mortal threat to himself and to other people in the vicinity?"
Mr Mansfield replied: "Yes."
He added that when C12 learned that Mr De Menezes was identified as a potential suicide bomber, he had instead decided that he must kill him.
The officer said that was not true, adding: "That could not be further from the truth. I remember as I ran down the escalator all that was going through my mind was, 'I've got to get to him'. I had no preconceived ideas about what I was going to do.
"I did not even know where he was, let alone know I was going to deliver a critical shot. I just did not have that in my mind."
When asked why he shot the Brazilian more than once, he said he thought he had moved after falling to the floor. He added: "I had to make sure life was extinct. I had to incapacitate instantly. I just could not take any chances."
He said: "I do not want to take anyone's life. If there was an alternative to do anything else that day – believe me, I would have taken it."
The inquest heard earlier that C12 had not seen a picture of the man suspected of being the bomber. The officer explained that this was normal procedure and that it was the job of the surveillance team, and not the firearms officers, to positively identify the suspect.
Late yesterday, the inquest heard from the other police marksman, identified as C2, who shot Mr De Menezes. The officer explained how he had left the police station that day armed with a carbine rifle, his personal issue handgun and stun grenades. The inquest at the Oval, south London, continues.
The exchange: Officer 'felt anxious'
Michael Mansfield: By this stage you are ... thinking 'I'm going to be facing a suicide bomber from yesterday'.
C12: I felt a certain amount of anxiety, yes.
Mansfield: In fact, you are now beginning to think not just that he was a bomber from yesterday but that he is a bomber today.
C12: Yes, that possibility was extremely high.
Mansfield: You had made an assumption that he had a bomb on him.
C12: It was a possibility that I could not ignore.
Mansfield: What you did was grossly exaggerate what you saw in order to convince people he was a terrorist about to explode a bomb. Is there any possibility you did that?
C12: Absolutely none whatsoever.
Mansfield: You are embellishing what you saw for very obvious reasons, I suggest.
C12: I'm not embellishing anything.