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Driver of De Menezes train thought police were terrorists

Guardian | November 4, 2008
By Peter Walker

The driver of the underground train on which Jean Charles de Menezes was killed believed the police who shot dead the young Brazilian were terrorists, an inquest heard today.

Quincy Akpesiri Oji ran across live tracks into a tunnel to escape from the police, who he believed were "fanatics" shooting at passengers.

"I got to the Stockwell tube station just before 10am," Akpesiri Oji said in a statement read to the inquest into de Menezes's death. "When I got there the light was red. This was unusual.

"I then heard people screaming and I looked at the monitor at the front of the train. I heard gunshots. There were about 15 of them. I think there were about 15 shots.

"I saw one of the men with a large gun shooting and I thought they were fanatics and they were shooting at people on the carriage. I have run into the dark tunnel."

The driver spoke of his fear, saying that the tracks were live and trains were approaching nearby.

He added: "I stood there with my back against the wall for about 20 seconds. Someone flashed a light into the tunnel. I said, 'Please do not shoot - I am the driver.'"

De Menezes was shot seven times in the head shortly after he got onto the train at Stockwell station in south London early on July 22, 2005. 

Police killed the 27-year-old, mistakenly believing he was Hussein Osman, one of a group of would-be suicide bombers who had attempted to set off bombs on a number of tube trains and a bus the previous day.

Police involved in the operation have told the inquest being held at Oval cricket ground, near Stockwell - that they had shouted warnings to de Menezes, identifying themselves. One officer said the Brazilian then stood up and walked towards them, prompting fears he was about to detonate a bomb.

However, a series of passengers travelling on the carriage where de Menezes was shot have contradicted this account, saying they heard no warnings and that de Menezes gave no significant reaction to the policemen's arrival.

One passenger, Anna Dunwoodie, said yesterday that the young electrician appeared calm as a gun was held to his head. She was "very, very clear" officers did not shout any warnings before shooting him dead.

Later, the inquest heard from a scientific expert who said de Menezes had taken cocaine less than 12 hours before his death but added that it was impossible to know whether this might have affected his behaviour.

Explaining the possible effect of trace amounts of cocaine in de Menezes's system, Graham Mould, a drugs expert at Royal Surrey County Hospital, said the Brazilian could have been in a state of "dysphoria", meaning depressed or anxious.

"There may have been an element of agitation as well," he said. "Whether this would lead to unusual behaviour which caused the police to act as they did, I would suggest, is difficult to say."

Another expert, Dr Franco Tomei, explained that tests showed de Menezes was killed as he was pinned down to his seat.

"When the shots were first sustained, Jean Charles was probably pushed over on his left side. His head would have been horizontal," he said, adding that a single bullet would have been enough to incapacitate him in that position.