Blame game

PUBLISHED: 11:12 19 November 2009 | UPDATED: 14:41 06 May 2010

A SECOND board of inquiry into the death of Captain James Philippson in Afghanistan has cleared his commander of any blame. Captain Philippson from Bricket Wood died in an ambush in June 2006 aged 29 after going to the rescue of pinned-down colleagues. He

A SECOND board of inquiry into the death of Captain James Philippson in Afghanistan has cleared his commander of any blame.

Captain Philippson from Bricket Wood died in an ambush in June 2006 aged 29 after going to the rescue of pinned-down colleagues. He was the first soldier to die during the current deployment in Afghanistan

The first Board of Inquiry followed an inquest into the death of Capt Philippson in which the coroner criticised the lack of proper equipment including night-vision goggles and ruled that he was unlawfully killed.

The Board subsequently decided that tactical decisions taken by his commander, Major Johnny Bristow, had contributed to his death.

But the second Board which released its findings yesterday, cleared the major of making errors and commended his "tenacity and courage."

It also decided that despite the coroner's comments about the lack of proper equipment that did not directly contribute to Captain Philippson's death.

His father, Mr Tony Philippson, who has been fighting for justice for his son since his death, was said to be angered by the assertion but not surprised by the findings of the report.

St Albans MP Anne Main was with Mr Philippson yesterday to meet armed forces minister Bill Ramell to discuss the report.

She said: "The finding of the second Board of Inquiry that the decisions of Captain Philippson's commanding officer, Major Bristow, were not a contributory factor in his death is very welcome.

"It was wrong for Bob Ainsworth to allow the smear on Captain Philippson's commanding officer's conduct to remain even after the coroner ruled that the death was caused, 'not by the terrorists but by the lack of basic equipment'. This is not acceptable behaviour for any government minister and he should come to the House of Commons to give a statement and apologise publicly to Major Bristow given the findings of this new Board of Inquiry."

She said that Mr Philippson had to mount a long campaign to call for a new Board of Inquiry to uncover the truth and she and he had personally challenged Mr Ainsworth on a number of occasions before the second Board of Inquiry was granted.

She added: "Major Bristow was Captain Philippson's friend and commanding officer and he felt he was unable to speak out about this matter. It is a tribute to Tony Philippson that, at long last, we have got to the truth which absolves Major Bristow for any responsibility for this death and underlines the lack of mission-essential equipment.

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