New army probe into death of soldier in Afghanistan
A NEW investigation will be conducted by the army into the death of Captain James Philippson in Afghanistan after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted mistakes in the original inquiry. Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth made the announcement this week
A NEW investigation will be conducted by the army into the death of Captain James Philippson in Afghanistan after the Ministry of Defence (MoD) admitted mistakes in the original inquiry.
Armed Forces Minister Bob Ainsworth made the announcement this week about the soldier from Bricket Wood who died aged 29 in a Taliban ambush while trying to rescue colleagues in June 2006.
The ex-St Columba's College pupil, who served with both the 7th Para Regiment Royal Horse Artillery and 29 Commando Regiment Royal Artillery, became the first soldier to be killed in the current deployment in the country.
Mr Ainsworth said the army has identified some "procedural errors" in the conduct of the original investigation into Captain Philippson's death and that a Board of Inquiry (BOI) was to be established.
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The original inquiry said he was killed as a result of poor tactical decision making with heavy criticism being placed on his patrol commander, Major Bristow.
But an inquest into Captain Philippson's death in February found the criticisms unfounded and therefore not a contributing cause to the death.
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The Oxfordshire coroner, Andrew Walker, ruled that his unit was not defeated by the terrorists but by a lack of basic equipment. He criticised the Government and said: "To send soldiers into a combat zone without basic equipment is unforgivable, inexcusable and a breach of trust between the soldiers and those who govern them."
Following this, Mr Ainsworth stuck by the original BOI verdict and St Albans MP Anne Main and Captain Philippson's father Tony met with the minister to seek an apology for the comments which implicated Major Bristow.
He refused to retract the comments but the army will now be looking into the production of the original report and their apparent failure to allow the commander a proper hearing under official rules of such inquiries.
Mr Philippson said: "It has taken us a long time to get to this far, but at last we have finally got them to admit something went badly wrong and they are going to put it right."
But whatever the outcome, he stressed that he would always accept the verdict of the coroner as the correct one.
He is also pressing for an explanation as to why he was informed in writing before the inquest that the original BOI was unsafe but not the coroner.
Mrs Main said: "It is clear that the original Board of Inquiry (BOI) report did not follow correct procedure and I hope that this change of heart will finally ensure that the Government does its duty to James' family, and the friends whom he fought alongside."
She added: "The Government relied heavily on the original BOI report to cast doubt on the coroner's comments about their responsibility for James' death, effectively allowing the reputation of James' friend to be dragged through the mud, and giving the Government a hook on which to hang its failings over lack of equipment."
An MoD spokesperson said that the new inquiry would review the evidence and take into account the coroner's verdict, but he couldn't give a completion time as the soldiers involved were currently deployed.