De Menezes police 'under undue pressure', inquest told

Police chasing Jean Charles de Menezes were under "undue pressure" to identify him as a suicide bomber, a senior detective said today.

British police chasing Jean Charles de Menezes were under "undue pressure" to identify him as a suicide bomber, a senior detective said today.

Detective chief inspector Greg Purser said officers were facing an "appalling dilemma" on the day the Brazilian electrician was killed by police marksmen.

When asked if officers were "damned if they did, and damned if they did not", he responded: "That appears to be my life, sir."

Mr de Menezes, 27, was shot seven times in the head at Stockwell Tube station in south London on July 22, 2005 after being mistaken for failed bomber Hussain Osman.

He was tracked by surveillance officers after leaving a block of flats linked to Osman in Scotia Road, Tulse Hill, south London.

Mr Purser, a senior officer on the ground during the chase, told Mr de Menezes's inquest: "We put undue pressure potentially on surveillance officers and then potentially on firearms teams.

"We had an enormous task that morning. To try and take the operation to the level we would have liked would possibly have taken a day.

"We were trying to do it in a short time. It's extremely difficult sir.

"We ask so much of our surveillance teams and we ask much of our firearms teams."

Mr Purser rejected claims he failed to spot anxiety amongst his officers as he gave a briefing before Mr de Menezes was shot.

Answering questions from Michael Mansfield QC, for the de Menezes family, he described a "sombre" atmosphere during a briefing before Mr de Menezes was shot.

He added: "There is no fast way of saying we are dealing with suicide bombers today.

"Perhaps I did not pick up on their concerns but I honestly believe that I gave a balanced and honest briefing.

"It was a very sombre meeting. It is usually a bit 'blokeish'.

"I was saying to them that we were dealing with people who attempted to blow up a tube train and kill citizens of London.

"I was telling them that it was not a hoax and that we had got a challenge ahead."

Yesterday, another senior officer at the scene, Trojan 84, told the inquest how the two officers who shot Mr de Menezes were put in an "impossible situation".

The marksmen - identified as C2 and C12 - are due to give evidence in public for the first time later in the inquest at the Oval cricket ground in south London.

Mr Purser later choked back tears, taking a gulp of water, as he paid tribute to the "bravery" of surveillance and firearms officers.

After apologising to the coroner for his outburst of emotion, he said: "Without the surveillance team and the firearms team - and their bravery and professional ability - we would just not be able to function. That is a fact of life."

Mr Purser went on to describe himself as "Mr Average" - and said he "wasn't on his best" after seeing Mr de Menezes's body.

He said: "I have seen a lot of dead bodies but this was the first one that was close to me."

He insisted the other members of his team were "exceptional" on the day of the shooting.

Mr Purser added: "Sir, I would say that Commander McDowell, Mr Boutcher, Mr Whiddett and, particularly, Cressida Dick are probably four of the finest officers I have worked for.

"I have already said what I have said about the firearms team and surveillance.

"Me, I'm probably Mr Average, but the rest of them were exceptional."

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