Not even Hosni Mubarak allowed the Egyptian police free reign. Two and a half years ago, at the height of the revolution that toppled him, the dictator took the police off the streets because they were killing too many people in his name.
Now those police units are active once more. They are unfettered and unaccountable and have been largely responsible for the three Cairo massacres that have occurred inside the last six weeks.
The Interior Minister claims the police and army used the minimum force necessary to end the sit-in at a Cairo mosque that had come to define the Muslim Brotherhood’s opposition to the coup that saw the overthrow of their president Mohamed Morsi.
Looking at the extent of the destruction wrought there, the claim is ridiculous. The tactics used yesterday were more akin to scorched earth.
The official death toll has tripled in 24 hours and has now passed 500. The authorities appear to believe that acknowledging the extent of the carnage in increments will somehow soften the blow.
The Muslim Brotherhood claim the death toll tops 2,000. The official morgues are full, so many corpses now lie in another mosque. We did a tally there and I lost count at 350.
Desperate relatives are searching for loved ones who aren’t answering their mobile phones. Identifying some of the dead is impossible so charred are the remains.
The Muslim Brotherhood say they will not bury their dead until they have official death certificates, which they claim the poice are refusing to issue because then an official record of the death toll would exist.
One of those killed was Sky News cameraman Mick Deane, a legend in our business. A familiar face on the road, Mick’s presence was always reassuring. He was great company, with the type of dry observant sense of humour that belongs only to those who have truly seen it all.
Mick will be sorely missed and we can only hope that as his colleagues grapple with the pain of losing him they will also quickly appreciate how lucky they were to have such a colossus in their midst.