Killed soldier felt deceived over war

A SOLDIER murdered in Iraq along with five colleagues had told his family that he and others felt "completely deceived" by the reasons for going to war, it has been revealed.

A SOLDIER murdered in Iraq along with five colleagues had told his family that he and others felt "completely deceived" by the reasons for going to war, it has been revealed.

The news emerged on the first anniversary of the deaths of six military policeman from Colchester, who were massacred near Basra on June 24 last year.

Reg Keys said his son, Lance-Corporal Thomas Keys, 20, had told his family he and friends felt "completely deceived" by the reasons for going to war and that morale "was on the floor".

Mr Keys, who is still battling to discover what went wrong on the fateful day, said he had also told Thomas' brother Richard, also a soldier, to go AWOL if ever deployed to Iraq.

Reflecting on his agonising year yesterday, Mr Keys, from North Wales, said: "I only have one other son and he's serving with the Royal Engineers.

"But we've told him in no uncertain terms that if he ever gets the call to go to Iraq, he's to jump in the car and come straight home.

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"We'll deal with the consequences, but I'm not having him go out there after all that's happened."

L-Cpl Keys was serving with 156 Provost Company, Royal Military Police, which was attached to Colchester-based 16 Air Assault Brigade.

Seven weeks after the war ended, the six Red Caps were cornered by a frenzied mob at a police station in the town of Majar al-Kabir, 120 miles north of Basra.

It is believed the six were gunned down by their own weapons.

The news of their deaths stunned the garrison town of Colchester, where the six had been based. Although an Army Board of Inquiry was set up, Mr Keys - angry he receives "more information from the media than the Army" - is doubtful the truth will ever emerge.

Mr Keys said he and other families had set up their own investigation immediately after the brutal killings.

"Serving soldiers were so disgusted by what happened they got in touch with us directly, so we've been able to establish our own list of contacts," he said.

"We know soldiers have been brought back to the inquiry under caution, so that suggests they want to dig deeper in some areas. I suppose we just have to be patient and wait to see what they say.

"But we fear we're going to get a sanitised version of what happened. I believe there's been one almighty cock-up somewhere.

"On two days before they went in some Paras were attacked there, but I don't believe my son and his colleagues weren't briefed about that."

"It's been a very difficult and agonising year trying to find out exactly what happened. Our sons may have had their funerals and been buried or cremated, but there's not been any closure."

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: "The Board of Inquiry into the deaths of the RMPs was convened on March 15 this year.

"The families of the six soldiers were invited to contribute to the board's terms of reference and have been provided with written reports of its progress.

"It is expected that the board will be completed within the next few weeks. This report will then be staffed through the chain of command. At this point the families will then receive a copy.

"Our overriding concern is that the president of the board should be allowed to reach his own conclusions.

"It is unhelpful to publish details of issues arising from the inquiry. Our thoughts are with the families at this time."

No official events have been planned to mark the sad anniversary at the Garrison, but an Army spokeswoman said the soldiers would be in their former colleagues' thoughts.

The other soldiers who died were Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessingham; Cpl Paul Long, 24, from Colchester; Cpl Simon Miller, 21, from Tyne and Wear; L-Cpl Benjamin McGowan Hyde, 23, from north Yorkshire; and Cpl Russell Aston, 30, from Derbyshire.

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