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Jean Charles De Menezes: 10 Years On, Who Remembers The Innocent Brazilian Killed By Police At Stockwell Tube Station?

07/07/2015 10:12 BST | Updated 22/07/2015 15:59 BST

To mark the 10 year anniversary of the London 7/7 terrorist attacks, HuffPost UK is running Beyond The Bombings, a special series of interviews, blogs, in-depth features and exclusive research reflecting on how Britain has changed since.

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It has been 10 years since 27-year-old Jean Charles de Menezes made the mistake of getting back on the number 2 bus.

And a decade since the innocent Brazilian electrician was mistaken for a suicide bombing suspect, and shot seven times at close range by police, in front of commuters at Stockwell station.

This July, Britain will remember the 52 lives lost in the 7/7 bombings, but how many will mourn a man who was killed weeks later by our own police force, simply for being in the wrong place at the wrong time?

A man whose family and friends, 10 years later, are still fighting for his killers to be brought to justice.

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Jean Charles (left) and Hussain Osman, who police were hunting as a suspect in the 7/7 bombings

"To this day, people still sometimes ask me about if Jean jumped the barrier or was wearing a bulky jacket," says Yasmin Khan, one of the co-ordinaters of the Justice4Jean campaign. "But as the jury in the inquest found, these [details] were all fabricated stories."

Khan alleges that the Met Police fabricated information about de Menezes jumping the barriers and wearing a bulky jacket, and while the inquest found the information to be untrue, and rejected parts of the police account, it did not conclude that officers had lied or distorted evidence in the inquiry.

De Menezes grew up in Minas Gerais, Brazil, moving to Britain in 2002. A trained electrician, he lived in Stockwell, south London, and regularly sent money home to his family.

On the morning of 22 July, two weeks after the 7/7 bombings, de Menezes left his flat on Scotia Road in Tulse Hill. He was unaware that the block of flats was being watched by police and soldiers, because they believed it to be where Hussain Osman, a suspect in the failed 21 July bombings the day before, was living.

What happened next has been the source of years of campaigning, legal battles and public outcry.

Undercover officers followed de Menezes on his journey, believing they were following Osman. They observed him jump back on the number 2 bus after realising his local Tube station was closed - a decision which officers mistook for an "anti-surveillance" technique.

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CPS handout image of CCTV footage of showing the dramatic moments when armed police officers burst through Stockwell Tube ticket barriers looking for a suspected suicide bomber, where Jean Charles de Menezes was shot.

As the electrician entered Stockwell station, the officers radioed to their firearms colleagues. What they said is under dispute, with a jury finding shortcomings in the police's communication system contributed to de Menezes' death.

Two firearms officers raced into the station after the Brazilian, vaulting over the barriers and running down the escalators. One officer was alerted to de Menezes by a surveillance colleague who pointed and shouted "he is here".

De Menezes was then shot seven times in the head in a Tube carriage, at point blank range, in front of horrified commuters.

The Justice4Jean campaign has been instrumental in pushing for a prosecution. Just last month, the European Court of Human Rights heard arguments from de Menezes' family that Metropolitan police officers should stand trial over his death, which came a fortnight after four men detonated bombs on trains and a bus in central London on 7/7.

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In 2009, friends and relatives of Jean Charles launched a campaign to have a permanent memorial erected outside Stockwell Tube station

Although the Met was convicted of health and safety failures at the Old Bailey, the Crown Prosecution Service decided in 2006 that no individual should face prosecution, while in 2008 an inquest jury returned an open verdict, after rejecting the police force's official account of the shooting.

The Brazilian's family and friends have fought hard for the truth, and have devoted themselves to keeping his memory alive, launching a campaign in 2009 to have a permanent memorial for de Menezes installed at Stockwell Tube. Their hard work has paid off; to this day, tourists still come from across the world to pay their respects.

"I have people asking me where the memorial is," explains Oliver Bauer, who bought Tito's coffee shop in the station nine years ago. "I'll take them around the corner and show them. They’re mostly from Brazil and they’ll take some pictures, My wife’s South American so I understand, I get it.

"The family use the money from the settlement to keep his memory alive, which is really nice."

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'Life goes on', says Bauer who runs a shop in the station

But, Bauer adds, Stockwell has become synonymous with the events of July 22, 2005.

"Stockwell is known as the place where that guy got shot," Bauer tells HuffPost UK. "It seems to be the thing that defines the place. It's what it's famous for. People ask about it quite a lot.

"If I’m ever at a party and I say I own a coffee shop in Stockwell tube station, they’ll always say, ‘Oh, isn’t that where that guy was shot?’. I think people associate the area with that event."

Some Transport for London staff, however, tell a different story.

"No-one really asks about it," one TfL worker tells me. "It's accepted now. At the beginning, yes, we had lots of questions about it, but not now there's a permanent one."

When probed further, the man clams up: "We're not officially allowed to talk about it. There's no-one who works here from that time anymore anyway. It was a long time ago."

Bauer, however, sounds surprised when I say I've been told there aren't any staff who have worked at the station since the time of the shooting.

"Well that's not true," he says, scrunching up his brow, and pointing at a grey-haired, uniformed TfL worker who is manning the barriers. "Patrick over there has worked here for 26 years."

Bauer sighs: "The censorship of the whole thing.. it’s pretty brutal.

"I'm American, I’m from a country where guns are legal. I’m from a gun family. If people saw what shooting a pistol at close range could do to someone… there’d be a lot more shock.

"He was shot at close range. And he was shot when he was on the floor."

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De Menezes' father Matuzinho Otone, right, is comforted as he holds a picture of his son at their home near Gonzaga, Brazil on July 24, 2005

He continues: "The police said he got up and walked towards the officers. Now I don’t know if he spoke English, but if you have police shouting at you, you stay still, don’t you?

"The guy who I bought the shop off was working that day. He saw him running. If it was the same environment, the same situation… I’ve no doubt it would happen again. I guess people were tense after the bombings. But if you saw a guy reaching for something - would you just shoot?"

Bauer contemplates that thought for a moment, then shrugs. "I guess that’s a question for the police to answer."

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CPS handout image of CCTV footage of fleeing commuters inside Stockwell tube station

The disparity over the events of that day is still contested, and perhaps what contributes to the public's fascination with de Menezes' death.

Certainly, Khan from the Justice4Jean campaign is hoping the public will turn out in force to remember the electrician on the anniversary of his killing.

"The family will be visiting the station and having a commemorative minutes silence ceremony at the moment of his death. It is a public event and we hope members of the community will join us."

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But Brenda, who has run a flower shop next to the station for 15 years, claims the local community has all but forgotten the Brazilian.

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'A lot of people don't really take notice'

"The family come here every anniversary and place flowers, candles there, say prayers - that sort of thing," she tells me. "There were a fair amount of people who used to visit the memorial, but it’s dwindled now, as you’d expect.

"A lot of people don’t really take notice, especially not the locals. But tourists come down, asking where it is.

"At the time, of course everyone talked about it, like people do. But not now."

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British newspapers front pages, 17 August 2005 carry pictures of the body of Jean Charles de Menezes of Brazil lying in a London Underground train

It appears, Stockwell's locals at least, have moved on. As Bauer notes, gesturing at the shouting schoolchildren running through the station, "life goes on".

But the same can't be said for de Menezes' supporters and family.

"There has never been a successful prosecution of a police officer in the UK for a death in custody," Khan laments. "This is a scandal and not befitting a democratic country. The issue of police impunity remain as relevant as ever.

"The public have been overwhelmingly supportive of our campaign - they haven't forgotten Jean Charles at all."

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Jean Charles de Menezes