Officers to blame for friendly fire death of Marine

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The Independent Online

A young Royal Marine died under "friendly fire" in Iraq because of serious failings by his commanding officers, which the Army initially denied, an inquest has found.

After a three-year fight to establish the truth about why their son died, the parents of Christopher Maddison, 24, heard that his death would have been prevented had the presence of his patrol boat, on the Khawr Az Zubayr river in southern Iraq, been properly communicated to Royal Engineers soldiers manning a crossing point upriver. Instead, the crossing point believed it was being approached by two enemy craft, in March 2003, and hit Marine Maddison's vessel with a Milan missile.

Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker concluded that there had been no chain of command at the crossing point, no liaison officer who would have kept the crossing updated on the patrol's identity and whereabouts, and no communication between 3 Commandos' headquarters, the crossing point and the two landing craft that made up Marine Maddison's patrol. The victim was, Mr Walker said, "a skilled, professional and dedicated Marine who was highly regarded ... [but] was let down by those who were in command and by the communication system in operation at that time".

After the verdict, the Marine's father Les Towell, of Scarborough, North Yorkshire, said previous Army investigations had been "a farce". He added: "We [are] disappointed that even now, some of the witnesses did not accept their responsibility and accountability and in our opinion, embellished the truth to try and justify their actions."

An initial Army investigation into Marine Maddison's death concluded that he had been killed by an Iraqi vessel. But a film crew which was with the squadron at the time helped establish that this was not the case.

An MoD spokeswoman said it was studying the recommendations and reiterated its regret at Marine Maddison's death.