Brit error may have led to troop deaths

THE HEARTBROKEN mother of an Essex solider killed in a friendly fire attack said she does not want the air controller charged over the triple death tragedy.

James Hore

THE HEARTBROKEN mother of an Essex solider killed in a friendly fire attack said she does not want the air controller charged over the triple death tragedy.

Privates John Thrumble, 21, from Mayland, near Maldon, Aaron McClure, 19, from Ipswich, and Robert Foster 19, from Harlow, died when an F-15 jet dropped a bomb on them while trying to end a Taliban ambush.

It was initially thought that it had been an American blunder which caused the tragedy last August, but it has now emerged the families of the dead soldiers have been told it could have been the error of a British air controller.

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The Ministry of Defence confirmed last night an internal investigation by the Royal Military Police had been passed to defence chiefs.

If they consider there is enough evidence, the case will then be referred to the Independent Army Prosecuting Authority (APA).

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But Pte Thrumble's mother, Pearl, said she did not want to see a prosecution for the blue-on-blue attack.

Mrs Thrumble, 43, said: “We haven't got the actual final details yet but how can one man be responsible for a multi-million pound killing machine?

“I'm hoping this doesn't happen again. I wish it hadn't happened in the first place, the pain that comes from this sort of incident is indescribable.

“As a mother who has lost her son nothing can compare. The grief of us losing our son is paramount, but this person (air controller) has a mother as well.”

Mrs Thrumble and husband Stephen said they did want change to prevent a repeat of the tragedy.

She said: “The army has been very informative, giving us news as it comes up. We had been aware of all this information. Last year we were given information that it was a possibility that it wasn't the Americans' fault.

“It's very hard to put into words how I feel. At the end of the day our family has lost a fantastic son and we wish it hadn't happened in the first place.”

The family of Pte McClure, who attended Westbourne High School in Ipswich, said they did not want to comment on the latest development.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman confirmed: “The Royal Military Police Special Investigation Branch investigation into the deaths of three British soldiers on Thursday August 23, 2007 near Kajaki, Afghanistan, has concluded, and their report has been passed to the chain of command for their consideration.

“If the matter is referred to the independent Army Prosecuting Authority (APA), the APA will consider what, if any, action is to be taken, based upon the evidence and by applying normal prosecutorial tests.

“The APA is under the general superintendence of the Attorney General. Neither MoD, ministers nor the chain of command play any part in such decisions.”

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