The Ever Changing Story

The New York Times has out together an interesting piece on the ever changing stories coming out of the Met re the London bombs here (Registration required but it is free)

Most disgracefully of all of course is the case of Jean Charles de Menezes who after being executed by the police was then fingered as "directly linked" to the investigation.

But as the NYT points out it's not the first, or even the third, time police have had to back away from information they had confidently announced.

On the afternoon of the attacks, the police gave a precise but inaccurate account of when the bombs exploded. They said 26 minutes separated the first explosion on a subway train from the third and final explosion.

At two consecutive news conferences, senior police officials inaccurately reported that the first bomb exploded at 8:51 a.m., on a train near Liverpool Street station, on the edge of the city's financial district. They said the second bomb exploded five minutes later, at 8:56 a.m., on a train at Russell Square station. And the third, they said, hit a train at 9:17 a.m. as it approached Edgware Road.

On the evening of July 8, cellphone video aired by the BBC showed that the bomb at Edgware Road had exploded at 8:51 a.m. - not at 9:17 a.m., as the police had said.

On July 9, the police acknowledged their mistake and revealed that the bombs had exploded within 50 seconds of each other


One of the most important questions, in the early days, was whether the attacks were launched by suicide bombers. If true, it would be a first in the history of Western Europe.

But for several days, the police denied repeated questions by reporters about whether the bombers had died in the attacks. It was not until July 12 that the police said they had identified the bombers, but did not release their names. Though their identities emerged gradually from other sources in the ensuing days, two days later, the police said only two suspected bombers had been formally identified. On July 15, Scotland Yard identified the four bombers who had died in the attacks.

The police have still steadfastly avoided calling the men suicide bombers,
possibly because of a live theory inside Scotland Yard that the men were duped into carrying the bombs on board the trains.

There was also much interest in the makeup of the bombs, as it is one of the most important forensic clues that investigators have to help them solve a case. On July 9, two days after the bombings, the Metropolitan Police made a preliminary conclusion that the bombs were of "military grade." They passed the information on to their counterparts in Europe and the United States, and some news organizations reported it.

But within days, Scotland Yard determined that the bombs were powerful but crude, homemade explosive devices made with TATP, a mixture of widely available chemicals, including acetone, hydrogen peroxide and mineral acid.

On Friday night, the police arrested two men held under the Terrorism Act, a development that they said was "promising." One senior police official said one of the suspects might be one of the would-be suicide bombers who had attempted to carry out Thursday's attacks.

But by late Saturday evening, police officials gloomily cautioned reporters that the two men may not be the would-be suicide bombers after all.

Why does all this matter? well given the hysteria around the press and interweb, with every new rumour or story being pontificated on I think it's important that we treat everything we hear with scepticism, as it is almost certainly going to be corrected later.

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