Doubts cast on Chinook verdict

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The Independent Online

The government was under renewed pressure last night to reopen the investigation into the Chinook helicopter crash which killed 29 top intelligence officers in 1994.

The government was under renewed pressure last night to reopen the investigation into the Chinook helicopter crash which killed 29 top intelligence officers in 1994.

A leaked report by aviation experts claims the RAF conclusion - that pilot error was to blame for the loss of the cream of Northern Ireland's intelligence services - could not be sustained, and that the crash could have been the result of mechanical failure.

The findings are expected to increase pressure on Tony Blair's government, despite the Ministry of Defence saying again that it would not reopen the investigation. The RAF concluded the crash on the Mull of Kintyre in Scotland was caused by the gross negligence of the two pilots.

But the leaked report, written by Fellows of the Royal Aeronautical Society, concluded the verdict was not sustainable in light of significant evidence pointing to other problems which could have potentially caused the disaster.

The RAF Chinook crashed on 2 June 1994, killing all 29 people on board, including 25 senior members of the UK's anti-terrorist intelligence community travelling to Scotland from Northern Ireland.

RAF regulations state a verdict of gross negligence can only be pronounced when there is absolutely no doubt that negligence is the cause of the accident. An MoD spokesman said there was "nothing new" in the report by three retired pilots. He said experts had studied it carefully, but found nothing to contradict the original "exhaustive" inquiry.

But Ulster Unionist Party security spokesman Ken Maginnis called on the Government to reopen the inquiry.

Scottish Nationalist Party transport spokesman Kenny Macaskill added: "There has to be an inquiry. You may never find out what the cause was, but it's unlikely to have been pilot error."