At 18, I gave birth to my daughter, Jacqueline. I wanted her to feel she could say anything she wanted to me. I believed strongly, and still do, that people should be able to say what’s on their mind. I had no idea that, years later, this conviction would result in me hitting the headlines, put me at risk of going to jail and cause huge embarrassment to the Metropolitan Police.
When my daughter grew up, I moved to the UK to work. I’d taken a job as a secretary at the Independent Police Complaints Commission and had been there for more than a year when, on july 22 last year, Brazilian electrician Jean Charles de Menezes was shot in the head seven times by police at Stockwell tube station after he was mistaken for a suicide bomber. When I heard the news, two thoughts went through my mind. First, that if this guy was a terrorist it was a shame he had been killed, but it had been warranted. Second, that the IPCC would be conducting an investigation into the shooting.
The IPCC was a passed police documents relating to the shooting a few days later. I thought that Jean Charles de Menezes’ suspicious behaviour was the reason he was shot. Then we were given a bomb-shell briefing at work. We were told he hadn’t vaulted over a ticket barrier and run down an escalator to escape firearms officers, and that he hadn’t been wearing a bulky coat that would have concealed explosives. In fact, he had strolled into Stockwell tube wearing a denim jacket, picked up a free newspaper, then made his way down the escalator to catch his train.
The room went quiet. I thought it was terrible the police, who we were supposed to trust and who we paid to protect us, couldn’t tell the truth.
I saw where Jean Charles was shot. I saw the conditions of the seats, I saw the blood, and from what I have seen I can speculate about what happened to him. Whenever I sit on a Victoria Line tube, that’s what I think about. It will never leave me. The police should have come out at the beginning and said they had made a mistake.
When the story broke I was questioned by my bosses and, although I said nothing, suspended. I then resigned from my job. On September 24 last year, police raided my flat and arrested me. When I was taken to the police station for questioning, I was treated very harshly.
I was released on bail and dreaded at any moment being charged. I took on a series of temping jobs and it was through work I stayed sane over the next few months. But when I wasn’t at work, I went from being sociable to being recluse. I was afraid to go out in case I was followed by police and no longer knew who to trust.
When I was finally told in May that no charges would be levelled against me, I felt an incredible sense of relief. But I was still plagued with negative memories about my decision to speak out. From the day I decided to leak the documents, I had wanted to meet the De Menezes family to convey my condolences and talk to them about my decision. Finally, a couple of weeks ago, I did meet three members of the family. It was very emotional meeting with hugs and tears on all sides. When his cousin Patricia told me how important it was to the family that I had helped them to discover the truth, I felt so much better.
It’s extraordinary that this man whom I never met has had such an impact of my life. I spoke out for him and for his family, to make sure the truth wasn’t covered up I don’t see myself as brave for doing that. I know if my grandmother were still alive, she’d be proud of me for what I did.