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Fusilier killed by friendly fire, coroner rules

One of the youngest British soldiers to die during the Iraq invasion was killed by "friendly fire", and not enemy action as the Ministry of Defence originally declared, a coroner ruled yesterday.

Fusilier Kelan Turrington, who was 18 when he died in Iraq, was described by the Army as a victim of an Iraqi ambush during an assault on a trench in April 2003.

But Andrew Walker, deputy coroner for Oxfordshire, concluded that the soldier with the 1st Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers, at the time the youngest British casualty of the war, was killed by fire from a machinegun mounted on a British tank.

Mr Walker ruled: "Fusilier Kelan Turrington was on active service in Iraq when, under orders, he entered a sector controlled by a separate British military unit.

"Soldiers of the support British unit were not told Fusilier Turrington, together with three other British soldiers, had moved to that sector. Fusilier Turrington was shot and killed by machinegun fire from a tank in that sector."

Fusilier Turrington's mother Ann,45, said at her home in Haslingford, Cambridgeshire: "We are obviously upset about this but are trying to find out why there have been two different conclusions."

Andrew Lansley, MP for South Cambridgeshire, added that the MoD should clarify the circumstances surrounding Fusilier Turrington's death. "They have to make public statements about public inquiries", he said. " They must surely now have a need to establish how Kelan Turrington died."

The report of an inquiry conducted by the Royal Military Police into the death was not made public, but the MoD said it was passed it on to the Army Prosecuting Authority.

A lance corporal serving with the Queen's Royal Lancers alongside the 7th Armoured Brigade was questioned under caution over Fusilier Turrington's death, but the decision was taken not to press charges.

The funeral of the soldier, who was praised for his bravery and given a Mention in Dispatches, was attended by 500 mourners including 100 past and current members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers. Fusilier Turrington's parents set up a fund in his memory and the money raised were used to buy medical equipment for a clinic in Basra and supplies for a school.

A Ministry of Defence spokesman said last night "The case is still with the Army's prosecution authority, they are still considering whether Fusilier Turrington's death should be considered further.

"If they decide to investigate further they will refer it to the Attorney General's office. Fusilier Turrington's family have been kept fully informed."

Mr Lansley said the inquest's findings did not detract one "iota" from the soldier's bravery.