Short walk and the No2 bus - a very ordinary journey to death
Guardian writers trace the life and last minutes of Jean Charles de Menezes
Oliver Burkeman, Alex Bellos, Tom Phillips in Gonzaga, Angelique Chrisafis and Tania Branigan
Monday July 25, 2005
No journey by London bus or tube is quite as mundane these days as it once was and yet, by all accounts, Jean Charles de Menezes saw his own intended journey, last Friday morning, as nothing more than another day at work.
The 27-year-old Brazilian-born electrician had been due in Kilburn, to help fit a fire alarm. The only impact the previous day's attempted bombings seemed to be having on him was the one they were having on other Londoners: they were making him late.
"He rang me ... saying that he would be a little late because the tube lines weren't working properly," said Gesio de Avila, a builder and close friend who Mr De Menezes had been due to meet that morning for the fire alarm job. "I said, 'OK, as soon as you get to Kilburn, call me.' That was the last conversation I had with him."
Around that time, Mr De Menezes left the council flat where he lived in Scotia Road, Lambeth, and cut through to Tulse Hill, where he boarded the No 2 bus, heading north towards Stockwell. Boarding with him, it now seems clear, were several plainclothes police officers.... [emphasis added]
More questions than answers cluster around Mr De Menezes' final minutes when he got there: why was he wearing clothing bulky enough to arouse the suspicion he was hiding explosives? [um, because he liked to be warm?] Why was he not challenged sooner? Why did he jump the turnstile when ordered to halt? [um, because he was being chased by berserkers in street clothes who were waving pistols at him?]
"I think that the police are inventing this thing about the thick jacket," said Mr Avila, whose number police found in Mr Menezes's mobile phone.
Mr Pereira denied his cousin would have jumped over the barrier. "Running, maybe. But not running from the police. Everyone runs for the underground. But he wouldn't jump. Why would he jump?" [Um, because people who looked like gangsters were threatening him with handguns?]
In Brazil, the mayor had come to give Mr De Menezes' parents the news of his death on Saturday. "They brought a medical team too, since they knew we'd all be sick at the news," his father, Matosinhos Otone da Silva, said.
"I never thought it was my son when I first heard on the TV. How could it have been? He was so happy in England.
"Then I heard on [the news] that they'd killed a Brazilian, and I started to pay attention."
When the mayor arrived, Mr Da Silva pre-empted him. "It's fatal," he said. "Yes, it's about England and your son. Your son was murdered."
"We lost our heads," Mr Da Silva said.