Army accused of 'whitewash' over deaths

RELATIVES of six Red Caps murdered by a mob in Iraq last night accused the army of a "whitewash" following an inquiry into the massacres.The families said there had been a cover-up about the events which led to the brutal killings of the Colchester-based men in June 2003.

RELATIVES of six Red Caps murdered by a mob in Iraq last night accused the army of a "whitewash" following an inquiry into the massacres.

The families said there had been a cover-up about the events which led to the brutal killings of the Colchester-based men in June 2003.

Their comments followed a morning meeting with members of the Ministry of Defence Board of Inquiry (BOI) which earlier found that no individual could be blamed for the murders.

The grieving relatives accused the army of a lack of accountability following an alleged "catalogue of errors" which led to the six men's deaths.


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They claim the BOI's findings were a "cover up' to protect the careers of army officers who may have been at fault.

Addressing a conference at St James's Church, in London's Piccadilly yesterday, they welcomed the army's assurances that an independent coroner's inquest would be held into the deaths, possibly as early as May or June this year.

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The six Royal Military Police were murdered on June 24, 2003, after becoming trapped in a police station in the town of Al Majar Al Kabir, near Basra in Southern Iraq.

Reg Keys, father of murdered Lance-Corporal Thomas Keys, 20, from Bala in Wales, refuted the BOI's findings that the killings "could not have been reasonably prevented'.

Mr Keys, 52, said: "The town of Al Majar was in fact a powder keg waiting to explode.'

He claimed that senior army personnel had ignored the BOI's recommendation that some officers should face administrative action.

He said: "The families feel we are the victims of a whitewash and a cover up in order to protect careers of certain individuals.'

Pat Long, whose 24-year-old son, Corporal Paul Long, from Colchester, was one of the six RMPs killed, also spoke of her grief.

Mrs Long, 53, from South Shields, said: "It has been sheer hell. Nothing helps really. No matter what anybody says it can't take the hurt away from me.'

Adele Cox, sister of murdered Red Cap Corporal Russell Aston said the families had not had justice from the army.

The 28-year-old from Church Gresley, Derbyshire, claimed: "It was a catalogue of errors that led to the lads' deaths. This is why we have to get to the truth of things.'

But a statement from the MoD said last night: "We have gone to great lengths to brief the families in detail about the BOI and we remain committed to keeping them informed of any other significant developments in connection with this incident.

"However, these will now largely be concerned with the criminal investigation in Iraq, with which we are giving our full assistance, and the inquest, which are matters for the Iraqi authorities and Her Majesty's Coroner respectively."

It added: "We also provided the families with further information about the decision not to take administrative action against any individual in connection with this incident.

"This was a thorough, robust internal disciplinary process. It was essential that the witnesses called to give evidence to the Board were able to talk candidly and therefore the details must remain in confidence. We stress that the decision not to sanction anyone was taken only after very careful consideration of the evidence."

The six men who died were: Sergeant Simon Hamilton-Jewell, from Chessington, Surrey; Corporal Russell Aston, 30, from Swadlincote, Derbyshire; Corporal Paul Long, 24, from Colchester; Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne and Wear; Lance Corporal Benjamin John McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorks; and Lance Corporal Thomas Richard Keys, 20, from Bala, Wales.

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