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Fallon ‘apologises over Iraq War death of British soldier in Snatch Land Rover’

Press Association logoPress Association 18/08/2017 By PA Reporters
Private Phillip Hewett was killed while on patrol in Iraq (Ministry of Defence/PA) © Provided by The Press Association Private Phillip Hewett was killed while on patrol in Iraq (Ministry of Defence/PA)

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has apologised to the mother of a British soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a Snatch Land Rover, according to reports.

In a letter seen by the BBC, Sir Michael said bringing alternative protected vehicles into service “could have saved lives”.

Private Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, died in July 2005 after a Snatch Land Rover was blown up.

Susan Smith, mother of Private Phillip Hewett © Provided by The Press Association Susan Smith, mother of Private Phillip Hewett

Last year, the Chilcot Inquiry found a string of Ministry of Defence failings in the preparation for the Iraq War, including a delay in replacing the lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers which are vulnerable to bombs.

Pte Hewett’s mother, Sue Smith, is among a number of families to have been given the go-ahead to bring compensation claims against the Government under legislation covering negligence and human rights.

Sue Smith and Colin Redpath, father of Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, outside the UK Supreme Court in Parliament Square © Provided by The Press Association Sue Smith and Colin Redpath, father of Lance Corporal Kirk Redpath, outside the UK Supreme Court in Parliament Square In a letter to Ms Smith seen by the BBC, Sir Michael expresses his regret at Pte Hewett’s death.

"I am fully aware of the struggle you have had to bring this matter to court over the last decade and I recognise that this has had a significant impact on you and your family,” the Defence Secretary wrote.

“The Government entirely accepts the findings of Sir John Chilcot in the Iraq Inquiry in relation to Snatch Land Rover.

“I would like to express directly to you my deepest sympathies and apologise for the delay, resulting in decisions taken at the time in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.”

Sir Michael Fallon © Provided by The Press Association Sir Michael Fallon

He goes on to say that lessons have been learned, adding: “The Government must and will ensure that our Armed Forces are always properly equipped and resourced.”

Ms Smith told the BBC the apology was “bittersweet”, adding: “I’d like it to be that his death made a difference. He’s not just a casualty of Iraq.”

An MoD spokeswoman said: “We offer our deepest sympathies and apologise for the delay in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.

“The Government acknowledges and fully accepts the findings of Sir John Chilcot’s inquiry in relation to Snatch Land Rovers.

“Our armed forces now use a number of highly capable and extremely well protected patrol vehicles, including Mastiff, Ridgback, Husky and Wolfhound.”

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