Better-armored vehicles in Iraq could have saved lives, Fallon tells dead soldier’s mother

Better-armored vehicles in Iraq could have saved lives, Fallon tells dead soldier’s mother
Defense Secretary Michael Fallon has apologized to the mother of a British soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb while traveling in a lightly-protected Snatch Land Rover.

Last year, the Chilcot Inquiry found a string of Ministry of Defence (MoD) failings in the preparation for the Iraq War, including a delay in replacing the Snatch Land Rovers, which are vulnerable to explosions and shrapnel.

Private Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, died in 2005 when his vehicle was blown up in Amara, southeastern Iraq. In a letter to the family, seen by the BBC, Fallon said bringing better protected vehicles into service could have saved lives.

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

“I am fully aware of the struggle you have had to bring this matter to court over the last decade and I recognize that this has had a significant impact on you and your family,” Fallon’s letter says.

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

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

He goes on to say that lessons have been learnt.

“The government must and will ensure that our Armed Forces are always properly equipped and resourced.”

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.”

“We offer our deepest sympathies and apologize for the delay in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives,” an MoD spokesperson said.

“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.”