Murdered Red Caps - inquiry promise

THE families of six Colchester-based Army Red Caps murdered by an Iraqi mob have secured a promise to bring their sons' killers to justice, it was revealed today.

Roddy Ashworth

THE families of six Colchester-based Army Red Caps murdered by an Iraqi mob have secured a promise to bring their sons' killers to justice, it was revealed today.

But Reg Keys, the father of one of the dead soldiers, yesterday told the East Anglian Daily Times that he viewed the pledge - made by Iraqi interior minister Jawad Al Boulani - with mixed feelings.

The military policemen were killed after an estimated 400 Iraqis descended on a police station in the town of Majar al-Kabir in June 2003.

Mr Al Boulani has vowed to do his best to track down the killers after a letter from three of the families implored the Iraqi government to find the culprits.

In his letter, he wrote: “I promise you that I will do my best by exerting every means to reach the criminals and bring them to justice.

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“I hope that there will come a day when you will be here to see the criminals being tried before justice and also a procurement of a verdict against them, God willing.

“The blood of your sons has become part of the price of future generations to live in freedom.”

The letter said the soldiers made the “ultimate sacrifice” and continued: "Without the actions of honourable men, such as your sons, positive changes would not have taken place.”

In February 2006, a court in Baghdad issued arrest warrants for eight suspects but nobody has been detained despite pressure from the UK Government.

Mr Keys, whose son Tom died in the incident, said: “It's a very nice letter. But this happened in June 2003, and by July we were told they had the names of those responsible.

“This is too little too late. On the one hand he says he will work hard to bring the killers to justice, but on the other he says the reason for the delay is due to limited access to information in that province, due to the security situation.

“I have mixed feelings. At least it is something, and we have communication, so we have a foot in the door. But I am sceptical.”

Mike Aston, whose 30-year-old son Russell was one of those who was killed, joined John Miller, who lost his 21-year-old son Simon, and Mr Keys to send a letter to the Iraqi government in March last year.

Mr Aston said he wanted his son's killers to be made to answer for what they had done.

“We've had four-and-a-half years of fighting, knowing the killers are still walking around and thinking it's OK to kill British soldiers and get away with it and that's not right,” Mr Aston said.

“What's important to me also is that the killers be questioned to find out about our sons' final moments.

“I know my son was a very brave man. He was not the sort who would lay down his arms and surrender, he would go out fighting, but I want that confirmed.”

Mr Aston, from Swadlincote, Derbyshire, added that he was touched by the letter from the interior minister.

A Ministry of Defence inquiry into the deaths found they could not have been prevented.

In March 2006, a coroner recorded a narrative verdict of unlawful killing.

The coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, said the six men should have been better equipped, but their deaths could not have been avoided.

The six Red Caps killed were Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessington, Surrey; Cpl Russell Aston, 30, from Swadlincote, Derbyshire; Cpl Paul Long, 24, of Tyne and Wear; L/Cpl Benjamin McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire; L/Cpl Tom Keys, 20, from Bala, North Wales; and Cpl Simon Miller, 21, from Tyne and Wear.