Death crash vehicle was

A BRITISH military Land Rover was “stationary” when it was in collision with a taxi carrying 14 people on a motorway in Iraq, a court was told yesterday.

A BRITISH military Land Rover was “stationary” when it was in collision with a taxi carrying 14 people on a motorway in Iraq, a court was told yesterday.

Five Iraqi women travelling in the taxi died as a result of the crash on a three-lane highway near Basra in February 2004.

Land Rover driver Senior Aircraftman James Bowskill, 25, a member of 2 Squadron RAF Regiment based at RAF Honington, near Bury St Edmunds, denies causing death by dangerous driving.

His colleague, Senior Aircraftman Matthew Whyatt, a gunner on the Land Rover, yesterday told a court martial in Colchester, Essex, that the Land Rover was parked at an angle on the hard shoulder of the motorway when the accident happened.

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SAC Whyatt said members of 2 Squadron had been carrying out vehicle checks on the motorway shortly before the accident happened.

“As far as I remember our vehicle was stationary. It (the taxi) clipped the corner of our vehicle,” said SAC Whyatt. “I am 99% sure we were not moving.”

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SAC Whyatt said the Land Rover was positioned at a 45-degree angle on the hard shoulder with its front left-hand wheel on the motorway - a standard position for military vehicles manning road checkpoints.

He said the vehicle checks had ended but his unit's commanding officer had not given any order for Land Rovers manning the checkpoint to move off.

“I remember turning around and clocking this vehicle coming towards us,” said SAC Whyatt, who was standing in the back of the Land Rover manning a turret gun.

“I remember shouting 'Watch out'. It was sort of like a bracing shout really.”

He added: “If we had been moving my initial reaction would have been to shout 'Stop' instead of 'Watch out'.”

He said Bowskill, whose family live near Nottingham, was a senior member of the unit and would not have moved off without being ordered to do so.

Prosecutors allege that Bowskill drove across the motorway at “almost a right angle.”

They say he was heading for a gap in the central reservation and was aiming to do a U-turn on to the opposite carriageway.

Taxi driver Mohammed Hussain, 33, also gave evidence yesterday on a videolink from Basra via an interpreter.

He told the court that he was carrying 13 passengers to visit a holy shrine early in the morning.

He said he was travelling at between 70kph and 80kph when Bowskill's Land Rover drove across the road at “90 degrees” and into the side of his taxi.

“I tried to veer to the left and side to avoid it but it was far too fast,” he said.

“I didn't have any opportunity to avoid it. It was all happening too quickly.”

He added: “There was no fault on me or my car. It was deliberate misconduct on the part of the soldier who was driving the (Land Rover).”

Lawyers for Bowskill said Mr Hussain's version of events differed from the version he had given to police last year.

They also told the court that one of his concerns was compensation when he was questioned by police.

Mr Hussain said no-one in the car was wearing a seatbelt and a number of people were sitting in the rear luggage area.

The court has been told that the taxi was a Chevrolet Silveroo - a large estate car which contained two bench seats and a luggage area at the back.

Prosecutors say the taxi rolled at least three times after the collision.

The hearing continues today. It is expected to conclude late this week.

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