The armed police who shot Jean Charles de Menezes were briefed hours beforehand that they would be using "unusual" lethal tactics and would only be deployed if officers on the ground believed they were dealing with a suicide bomber who was "deadly" and "up for it", the Old Bailey heard yesterday.
The team from Scotland Yard's CO19 firearms squad, who were issued with special ammunition designed to kill instantly, allegedly failed to satisfy themselves there had been a "positive identification" of the 27-year-old Brazilian electrician as a potential bomber before he was shot seven times in the head on board a London Underground train the day after the failed attacks on 21 July 2005.
On the second day of the prosecution of the Metropolitan Police for allegedly failing in its duty to protect the public during a bungled operation to watch a flat linked to one of the missing bombers, Hussain Osman, the jury was told that "confusion reigned" about who had been asked to stop Mr Menezes as he entered Stockwell Tube station on the morning of 22 July. The court heard that the leader of the CO19 team, codenamed Ralph, believed he heard a radio message that the Brazilian was " definitely our man" as his officers raced to the station and that the only safe way to stop Mr Menezes, who was suspected of being Osman, was likely to be to shoot him.
Clare Montgomery QC, for the prosecution, said the actions of the armed officers were the culmination of a catalogue of misunderstandings and errors during the hours before Mr Menezes left his flat in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill, south London at 9.33am while under the watch of a covert surveillance team.
Scotland Yard is accused of failing to fully implement its own plan to provide a back-up team of firearms officers to stop residents, including Mr Menezes, as they left the apartment block. Prosecutors allege that the 1974 Health and Safety at Work Act was breached when Mr Menezes was allowed to board public transport as a suspected suicide bomber. The force, which faces an unlimited fine if convicted, denies the charge.
The jury was told that, despite an order being given for a CO19 team to go to Scotia Road shortly after 5am on 22 July, officers were being briefed at 9.15am and were still two miles away from the flat when Mr Menezes emerged.
During an earlier briefing given by a senior CO19 officer named only as Trojan 84, Ralph was told his team would be involved in "unusual" tactics which were interpreted to mean they "might have to fire a shot into the brain of a suicide bomber".
The court heard that this was part of a "positively inflammatory" briefing by Trojan 84 after the CO19 team had been issued with special " 124 grain" ammunition, which had been proven to kill a victim with shots to the head before the body could react.
Ms Montgomery said that, crucially, Trojan 84 did not tell Ralph that part of his team's job would be to divert ordinary commuters and members of the public away from Scotia Road. "The briefings, in effect, assumed the bombers were in Scotia Road and would be coming out armed," she told the court. "It did not make clear that there was a real possibility they would not be dealing with a suspected suicide bomber."
The firearms team, which was described as proceeding at "funereal pace" towards its destination, was suddenly ordered to join the surveillance team tracking Mr Menezes as he made the 30-minute journey on foot and by bus to Stockwell Tube.
Ronald Thwaites QC, for the defence, said the case was based on a misunderstanding of how the police worked, particularly in the fast-moving and unique circumstances of 22 July. The court heard that a guilty verdict could result in police across Britain losing the discretion to make arrests when they see fit. "The prosecution are attempting to dictate to police how they should be doing the job," Mr Thwaites said.
The case continues.