We did our best, says De Menezes officer
Fred Attewill and agencies | Guardian Unlimited | October 3, 2007
The Scotland Yard commander in charge of the operation in which Jean Charles de Menezes was shot dead said today he still thinks almost daily about what could have been done differently.
But John McDowell also said his team had done its best to protect the public under "difficult circumstances". The Metropolitan police is on trial over alleged health and safety failures leading up to De Menezes' death on July 22 2005.
The Brazilian electrician was shot seven times in the head in front of horrified commuters after he was mistaken for a suicide bomber following the failed attacks on London's transport network the previous day. The Met denies the charges.
Today, Mr McDowell told the jury: "I have since that time constantly thought about what other potential tactics or strategy might have been available to me because of the outcome of this tragic set of circumstances.
"I have done that on a weekly, if not daily, basis.
"I remain of the view that I and we did our best that morning to mitigate what was clearly a threat to the public in very difficult circumstances."
The judge, Mr Justice Henriques, asked Mr McDowell if the fact that a firearms team was not briefed until nearly four hours after his instruction was an "acceptable passage of time".
Mr McDowell replied that it was the "quickest time that that team could be assembled and deployed with all the considerations that were bearing upon us that morning".
The judge asked: "Could that have been done differently?"
Mr McDowell said: "With hindsight, it is entirely conceivable it could have been."
Clare Montgomery QC, prosecuting on behalf of the Health and Safety Executive, also questioned the delay in getting a firearms team to an address in Scotia Road that had been linked to Hussain Osman, one of the men involved in the failed suicide attacks the day before.
Prosecutors claim that De Menezes and the public were exposed to risk because armed police were not there to challenge him and he was allowed on to two buses and a tube train, where he was shot dead.
Mr McDowell said there was "a feeling that there was a bit of time".
It was believed an attack that day would not come until the rush hour, when there would be a "larger number of people about", he said.
Detective Chief Superintendent Timothy White, who gave authorisation the night before for armed police to be deployed, later told the court it was vital for police to retain "operational flexibility" in deciding when suspects should be detained.
The hearing continues.