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Context of 'March 2005: Scotland Yard Official Predicts Britons Will Blow Themselves Up on London Subway Using Backpack Bombs'

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Reda Hassaine, an Algerian mole who has penetrated radical Islamist circles in London, goes to Scotland Yard and tells the British police that he has vital information for the anti-terrorist branch. Hassaine had previously informed on Islamist extremists in London for Algerian and French services, but has just been fired by the French (see Early 1995 and November 4, 1998). He speaks to two officers with the Metropolitan Police’s Special Branch about his work for the French, whom he had helped monitor leading extremist Abu Hamza al-Masri and Algerian terrorists living in London. Although most of Special Branch’s officers focus on Irish terrorism, they decide to hire Hassaine. The work is “frequently frustrating,” and only lasts for six months, after which control of Hassaine is passed to Britain’s domestic intelligence service, MI5 (see (May 1999)). After it is decided that Hassaine will leave the service of Special Branch and be transferred to MI5, Special Branch asks him to sign a letter saying that he is aware he will go to jail if he talks to anyone about his relationship with them, and if he is arrested by police, he will not be protected by immunity from prosecution. However, Hassaine is angry at this and refuses to sign. [O'Neill and McGrory, 2006, pp. 137-8]

Entity Tags: Metropolitan Police Special Branch, Reda Hassaine

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

By March 2005, senior officers in Scotland Yard’s anti-terrorist branch conclude that Britain is likely to be attacked by “home-grown” terrorists. One senior officer predicts that an attack could be mounted by Britons with bombs in backpacks, who would blow themselves up on the London subway. This is exactly what will occur in July (see July 7, 2005). However, Britain’s domestic intelligence agency MI5 sharply disagrees. In June, an assessment made by a group of top counterterrorism officials will conclude that no group has the intention or capability of attacking within Britain (see Mid-June 2005). [Guardian, 5/13/2006]

Entity Tags: Metropolitan Police Service

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

Jean Charles de MenezesJean Charles de Menezes [Source: The Independent]Brazilian Jean Charles de Menezes, 27, is shot seven times in the head and once in the shoulder at Stockwell Tube station, south London. Police had mistaken him for a suicide bomber. Stockwell passenger Mark Whitby describes the scene: “One of them was carrying a black handgun - it looked like an automatic - they pushed him to the floor, bundled on top of him and unloaded five shots into him.” [BBC, 7/22/2005] Initial reports indicate that de Menezes was challenged and refused to obey an order to stop. Metropolitan Police Commissioner Sir Ian Blair says the shooting is “directly linked” to the ongoing London bombs inquiry and manhunt spurred by the previous day’s attempted terror attacks (see July 21, 2005). Other early reports say that de Menezes was wearing a heavy coat despite the fact that it was a very warm day, had vaulted the barrier, and attempted to run onto a Tube train. Later reports contradict all of these claims. In addition, police claim that there is an absence of CCTV footage of the pursuit and shooting. The Independent Police Complaints Commission investigation following the shooting is able to establish a probable timeline of events. A police surveillance team was assigned to monitor the Tulse Hill area where de Menezes lived, as evidence linked it to the July 21 attacks. Upon exiting the building on the day of the shooting, de Menezes was identified as a possible suicide bomber by the surveillance unit and followed to the Tube station. The police were under strict orders not to allow any potential bombers on to a train and so a quick decision was made to perform an armed “hard stop.” The unarmed surveillance officers subsequently had to call in an armed response team. By the time the armed unit arrived, de Menezes, wearing a light denim jacket, had paid for his Tube travel and was walking down towards the train. Eyewitnesses described men leaping the barriers and rushing down the stairs towards the same area. Other witnesses put other possible plainclothes officers on the train, searching for the suspect. Once de Menezes had been spotted, the officers, out of radio contact with their superiors on the surface, made their decision quickly. New training had advised officers that it was crucial not to allow a suspect any time to detonate a device and that shots to the chest could cause a bomb to explode. This training instructed officers to wear plain clothes, not identify themselves until the last possible moment, and to aim for the head. The officers in the Tube station chased de Menezes on to the train, pinned him down and shot him. [Guardian, 8/14/2005] Prime Minister Tony Blair says he is “desperately sorry” about the shooting and expresses Britain’s “sorrow and deep sympathy” to the de Menezes family. He also says the police must be supported in doing their job. London Mayor Ken Livingstone says, “Consider the choice that faced police officers at Stockwell last Friday - and be glad you did not have to take it.” The de Menezes family retain legal counsel and consider suing Scotland Yard. [BBC, 7/25/2005] On November 1, 2007, prosecutors accuse the Metropolitan Police Service of “shocking and catastrophic error” during a trial at London’s Old Bailey Central Criminal Court. They say that police had criminally endangered the public, first by allowing a man they believed was a bomber to board an underground train, then by shooting him at point blank range. A jury convicts the police of a single charge of breaching health and safety rules which require it to protect the public. Judge Richard Henriques says “No explanation has been forthcoming other than a breakdown in communication. It’s been clear from the evidence that the surveillance team never positively identified Mr. De Menezes as a suspect.” The force is fined £175,000 and ordered to pay legal costs of £385,000. No individual officers are punished over the shooting, the Crown Prosecution Service having decided last year there was insufficient evidence to charge any individual with crimes. Police Chief Sir Ian Blair faces calls to resign, including from the opposition Conservative and Liberal Democrat parties. He is however supported by Prime Minister Gordon Brown. Interior Minister Jacqui Smith says “The Commissioner and the Metropolitan Police remain in the forefront of the fight against crime and terrorism. They have my full confidence and our thanks and support in the difficult job that they do.” Blair says the conviction does not represent “systemic failures” in the police force and that he will not quit over events “of a single day in extraordinary circumstances.” The de Menezes family’s representatives say they are pleased at the conviction but call for an open inquest at which they could present evidence, and for manslaughter charges to be brought against individual officers. [Reuters, 11/1/2007] A week later, renewed calls for Blair’s resignation come from the Independent Police Complaints Commission, who find he was responsible for “avoidable difficulty” following the killing of de Menezes. The report reveals that prosecutors considered and rejected murder charges against the two officers who fired the fatal shots, as well as charges of gross negligence against Assistant Metropolitan Police Commissioner Cressida Dick, who was in charge of the operation. IPCC chairman Nick Hardwick says “Very serious mistakes were made that could and should have been avoided. But we have to take the utmost care before singling out any individual for blame.” The report highlights a series of failings, including poor communication between officers and Blair’s initial attempts to block inquiries into the shooting. [Irish Times, 11/8/2007]

Entity Tags: Nick Hardwick, Richard Henriques, Mark Whitby, Tony Blair, Ken Livingstone, Metropolitan Police Service, Jacqui Smith, Cressida Dick, Gordon Brown, Jean Charles de Menezes, Independent Police Complaints Commission, Ian Blair

Timeline Tags: Complete 911 Timeline

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