Saturday, September 20, 2008
They start talking about the de Menezes boy 20 miles outside his home town. “Are you going to Gonzaga because of Jean Charles?” asks Terezinha Consuelita de Figueiredo, 26, a waitress in a dusty bakery on the empty highway. “He’s famous around here.” The young Brazilian, shot seven times at Stockwell Tube station two weeks after the July 7 bombings in 2005 by police who mistakenly believed that he was a terrorist, is the only reason foreigners visit this backwoods part of the Brazilian interior.
On Monday, more than three years after his killing, his inquest begins in London. But in his home town of Gonzaga, in the mountainous state of Minas Gerais, his memory is as vivid as ever.
A sign welcomes drivers into town. “Here we prize life,” it reads. “Land of Jean Charles. Victim of terrorism in London. 22/07/05.” In July Gonzaga was covered in white flowers to commemorate the anniversary of his death. A film is planned about his life.
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The popular, friendly, 27-year-old electrician has become more famous in death than he could ever have imagined. The sleepy community of 5,000-odd inhabitants, where everybody knows everybody else, still cannot understand the death of one of its favourite sons. Police shootings happen in dangerous cities such as Rio de Janeiro, not in London — the city Jean Charles told his mother was safe and clean and where the police, he told her, were polite and respectful and did not even carry guns.
For locals, friends and relatives, rightly or wrongly, the key issue in the inquest seems to be about compensation for the family. His parents live on a basic pension of £240 a month between them, plus what they grow on their smallholding. Jean Charles was their main breadwinner.
This article was posted: Saturday, September 20, 2008 at 3:59 am