Verdict delivered on Red Cap deaths

An inquest into the deaths of six Royal Military Policemen killed by a mob in Iraq has recorded a narrative verdict of unlawful killing.

The verdict means that no blame is attributed to any particular parties for the deaths.

However, the Coroner Nicholas Gardiner said that he would write to Defence Secretary John Reid with a series of recommendations regarding equipment and procedures, in order to "prevent the reoccurrence of fatalities".

The six Red Caps - Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41; Cpl Russell Aston, 30; Cpl Paul Long, 24; Cpl Simon Miller, 21; L/Cpl Benjamin McGowan Hyde, 23; and L/Cpl Tom Keys, 20 - were killed when a mob attacked the police station they were in, in the southern Iraq town of Majar al-Kabir on June 24, 2003.

The mob had been hunting for coalition forces earlier on the day and, after being repelled by paratroopers, found the Red Caps in the ruined police station.

The soldiers had no way of calling for help, because they did not have an Iridium satellite phone, their commanding officer did not know their location and they had only 50 rounds of ammunition each.

The families have accused the Army of negligence over the deaths and want a full investigation into the six deaths.

Reg Keys, whose son Tom was one of those killed, said: "We accept the risk a solider takes. For goodness' sake, give them the equipment to do their job."

The Army's director of personal services, Colonel Peter Davies said that the Army would be "considering carefully" the coroner's recommendations. He said that a new radio system, the Bowman system, had already helped to improve communications.


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