Red cap deaths - families demand inquiry

THE brother of one of six Colchester-based Royal Military Policemen killed by a mob in Iraq last night challenged Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to order a public inquiry into their deaths with the words: "This is his chance.

THE brother of one of six Colchester-based Royal Military Policemen killed by a mob in Iraq last night challenged Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to order a public inquiry into their deaths with the words: "This is his chance."

Tony Hamilton-Jewell, 57, whose 41-year-old brother Simon Alexander died in the attack, emerged from a meeting with Ministry of Defence officials yesterday afternoon, insisting a full inquiry was the "only way' to pacify the families.

He revealed the families of the victims would be meeting Mr Hoon on February 5 to demand a public inquiry, but questioned whether the Defence Secretary had "the guts' to order one.

"It's the only way of taking this forward and finding out what really happened. It would help pacify the families and the wider public,' he said.

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"It's the only way out of it, but whether he (Geoff Hoon) will have the guts to do it I don't know, but this is his chance.'

Sergeant Simon Alexander Hamilton-Jewell died with five other Red Caps on June 24 last year in an attack at Al Majar Al Kabir, 120 miles north of the British-controlled city of Basra.

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The families of the six soldiers killed in the attack spent more than four hours in the meeting with MoD officials at the Union Jack Club in Waterloo, London.

They were updated on the progress of the MoD's own internal inquiry into the deaths.

John Miller, 52, whose 21-year-old son Simon was one of those killed, said the officials had revealed they were at an advanced stage in the hunt for the soldiers' murderers.

He added the investigation would continue until the perpetrators were caught.

"We have been told that they are at an advanced stage of capturing those responsible,' he said.

"We also found out that the lads acted magnificently. They didn't take the easy way out in the best traditions, they didn't run away.'

Mike Aston, 61, whose son Corporal Russell Aston was another of the victims, said: "It's been a harrowing day for the families here today.

"I've found out that the blood of my son was found in two different rooms and I have to go back and tell my wife that.

"What we want to do is make sure no other families have to go through what we've been through.'

Mr Aston, close to tears, added that he thought his son, along with the other five Red Caps, had died as heroes.

All three men said there were still many "unanswered questions' and insisted they would continue to seek answers to find out whether the tragedy could have been avoided.

They said reports that the soldiers' radio signals were liable to black out should be fully investigated.

They also claimed there had been reports of stone throwing and general unrest in the town just days before the attack.

The attack that killed the six military policemen was the largest single loss of life suffered by the Army in one day since the first Gulf War in 1991.

The Red Caps, all serving with 156 Provost Company, were manning a small police station in the town.

They were helping to restore order in the area, but it is believed they were then ambushed and attacked by an angry mob loyal to Saddam Hussein.

They took cover in the police station but were surrounded by the gunmen.

The deaths caused revulsion in Britain after claims they were not killed in open combat but executed by their attackers.

After the deaths it was claimed some were shot with their own guns, and a row broke out over the lack of back-up for the men from other troops in the area as they became cornered.

The six who died were Sgt Hamilton-Jewell, from Chessington, Surrey; Corporal Russell Aston, 30, from Swadlincote, Derbyshire, who was married with one daughter; Corporal Paul Graham Long, 24, from Colchester; Corporal Simon Miller, 21, from Washington, Tyne & Wear, who was engaged to be married; Lance-Corporal Benjamin John McGowan Hyde, 23, from Northallerton, North Yorkshire; and Lance-Corporal Thomas Richard Keys, 20, from Bala, Wales.

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