Mother's tribute to 'beautiful' daughter

THE heartbroken mother of a Suffolk soldier killed in Iraq on Remembrance Sunday has paid a moving tribute to her “beautiful, caring” daughter.Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliott, 34, became just the second British servicewoman to die in the conflict when she was killed in a makeshift bomb blast while on a boat patrol.

THE heartbroken mother of a Suffolk soldier killed in Iraq on Remembrance Sunday has paid a moving tribute to her “beautiful, caring” daughter.

Staff Sergeant Sharron Elliott, 34, became just the second British servicewoman to die in the conflict when she was killed in a makeshift bomb blast while on a boat patrol.

Three colleagues died with her in the Poppy Day massacre - Warrant Officer Class 2 Lee Hopkins, 35, and Royal Marines Marine Jason Hylton, 33, and 27-year-old Corporal Ben Nowak.

The four were killed during a patrol in the Shatt al-Arab waterway in Basra city when a bomb, thought to be a home-made device, exploded near their boat.


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Originally from Hadleigh, Staff Sgt Elliott joined the Army at 18 and became an instructor in the Intelligence Corps.

She had been in Iraq just over a week and had previously served in the UK, Germany and Belize, as well as completing tours in Northern Ireland, Kosovo and Iraq.

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Staff Sgt Elliott had lived in South Shields, Tyne and Wear, since 1998 and was single. Two of her four step-brothers are also serving in the Army.

Grieving mum Elsie Manning last night told how she had spent much of her time while not serving her country looking after a friend suffering from cancer.

“Sharron was the most beautiful, caring person in the world. She was very strong-minded but very compassionate,” she added.

“She had lots of friends and used to look after one of then who had cancer so that her husband could take a break - that is the sort of person she was.

“She loved cooking and used to take over the kitchen when she came home, whipping up all kinds of exotic dishes for us all to try.

“She was very close to her four step-brothers and was 'best man' at her stepbrother David's wedding. “She was delighted to become an auntie again last year to little nephew Bradley.”

Mrs Manning added: “Her life was the Army and she had served all over the world. It is of some comfort to the family that she died doing what she loved.

“We all loved her so much - she has left such a big hole in our lives. She was the most fantastic person, she was just amazing and touched the hearts of everyone she met. We can never replace her.'”

Commanding officer Major Nick Tuppen described her as “a no-nonsense professional soldier who displayed both strength and compassion.”

WO2 Hopkins, who lived in Wellingborough, Northants, was described as a “loving husband and devoted father” who had been married to wife Amanda for 10 years and had a three-year-old son.

The soldier joined the Army in 1988 and spent his entire career in the Royal Corps of Signals.

Cpl Nowak was born in Speke, Merseyside but brought up in Australia and had dual nationality.

As a 16-year-old, the football-mad Everton fan had trials with Southampton.

His uncle Michael McEvatt, 48, said: “Ben was an extraordinary soldier and an extraordinary young man. He was so proud of what he did and he was so proud of that uniform.”

The Marine's cousin Daniel McEvatt said: “He once nutmegged (Southampton legend) Matt Le Tissier - that was something he wouldn't let us forget.”

Marine Hylton, a divorced father-of-two, lived with his parents in Swadlincote, Derbyshire. He joined up at the age of 30.

Three other service personnel were seriously injured in the attack, which brought the British death toll in Iraq since 2003 to 125.

mark.heath@eadt.co.uk

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