So the verdict of the De Menezes inquest is in: an open verdict.
The jury has said that, after the option of unlawful killing was inexplicably withdrawn from them by the coroner Sir Michael Wright, that the killing of Jean Charles De Menezes was not lawful, and that the Metropolitan Police firearms officer C12 who fired on him lied when he claimed to have shouted ‘armed police’ before opening fire in 2005. Now I may be naive here, but that sounds an awful lot like murder, cover-up and perjury – so why would the coroner refuse to allow an unlawful killing verdict?
The intrigue exploded into the open today, with the revelation of a gagging order imposed by the coroner when he began summing up last week:
These decisions began a week of escalating tension that exploded into open hostility between the family and the court and resulted in the relatives withdrawing their legal team and their cooperation.
“It is increasingly clear in the last week that the coroner’s impartiality has simply disappeared,” said Jasmin Khan of the Justice4Jean campaign. “That is one of the reasons why the family felt they had no choice but to withdraw their cooperation.”
The relatives had hoped the jury would be told of their decision to withdraw before they retired to consider their verdicts, but the barristers for the police and the coroner agreed that only the blandest of statements about the absence of the family’s legal team could be given to the jury.
The coroner had earlier ordered the public and the media to leave the courtroom while he completed his summing up to the jury last week, giving no reason except to say he had reached a “sensitive” point in the hearing.
When the public refused amid repeated requests for clarification of his ruling, there was a standoff for an hour and 40 minutes. The public refused to leave and the coroner refused to return to court.
At one point the team of bouncers with walkie-talkie microphones on their shirt cuffs who had been hired to provide security at the inquest were seen huddling in a corner. “We can’t use violence, that’s clear,” one was overheard saying.
Eventually the coroner’s orders were upheld and the public, including supporters of the family, left the court.
The relatives were held back by security guards and kept out of the courtroom while barristers, police and the coroner filed in. Having lost all faith that those inside would honour the principle that “justice should not only be done, but should manifestly and undoubtedly be seen to be done”, they attempted to storm into the courtroom.
Bizarre. But the jury was unmoved by Wright’s incredible manipulations, and clearly did everything it could to confirm legally that De Menezes was murdered:
The jury found that the firearms officer, C12, did not shout “armed police” before shooting De Menezes and that the Brazilian did not move towards him aggressively, prompting the fatal shot.