Families of murdered Red Caps devastated by collapse of trial

Relatives of six British soldiers murdered in Iraq by an armed mob spoke of their "devastation" yesterday after the only two men charged over the killings were acquitted by a court in Baghdad.

John Miller, whose 21-year-old son Simon was one of the Royal Military policemen who died when a police station in Majr al-Kabir was attacked in June 2003, criticised the British Government's handling of the case, claiming that officials had failed to keep families informed about developments.

Hamza Hateer and Mussa Ismael al Fartusi were due to stand trial for the murders at the central criminal court in Baghdad, but the case was dropped yesterday after a two-hour hearing, with the presiding judge, Justice Baleagh Hamdi Hikma, citing a lack of evidence.

The Red Caps had been on a routine operation to train local police when they were attacked by a crowd of around 500 three months after the US-led invasion of Iraq. They had been playing football with the Iraqi policemen when the crowd, instigated by a small group of ringleaders, turned on them.

Feelings had been running high locally over a number of deaths due to the action of UK forces. An inquest in March 2006 heard that some of the men's bodies were found riddled with bullets, while others had marks that suggested they had been dragged, tied up or beaten with rifles.

The six who died were L/Cpl Benjamin Hyde, of Northallerton, North Yorkshire; Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell, 41, from Chessington, Surrey; Cpl Russell Aston, 30 from Swadlincote, Derbyshire; Cpl Paul Long, 24, from Tyne and Wear; L/Cpl Tom Keys, 20, from Bala, North Wales; and Cpl Simon Miller, 21, from Tyne and Wear.

The coroner, Nicholas Gardiner, concluded in 2006 that the men were unlawfully killed. He said that they had been given antiquated radios and inadequate ammunition, but that better communications would not have saved their lives.

Three judges in Baghdad yesterday questioned nine people, mostly Iraqi police officers, who all maintained that they had not seen the killings and that inquiries during the past seven years had failed to unearth any witnesses.

Justice Hikma decided that there was no credible evidence that Mr Hateer and Mr Fartusi were responsible for the murders, but added that one of the defendants may face charges for allegedly stealing the rifle of a dead soldier.

Eight suspects were initially arrested in connection with the deaths, six of whom were freed without charge.

The families of the Red Caps have campaigned for an independent inquiry into the deaths, which they maintained were partly caused by Army negligence.

They were initially told by the British Government that they would be allowed access to the trial in Baghdad, but this was withdrawn for "security reasons". They were instead offered email updates via the British embassy in Baghdad and the Ministry of Defence.

John Miller, from Washington, Tyne and Wear, criticised the decision to deny the families access to the court: "I don't understand how this can happen. This is exactly why we wanted to be at the trial, we needed to be there. We were denied that, we were denied everything."

The 59-year-old also attacked the British Government over its handling of the case and its alleged failure to keep relatives informed, claiming that he had heard "nothing" from the British authorities yesterday, despite the families being told they would be updated by email: "My son was let down so badly in life, now he has been let down so badly in death," he said. "I'm devastated, I just can't believe it."

John Hyde, the father of L/Cpl Hyde, told Sky News: "Quite honestly these people just haven't been in court long enough to be able to prove their innocence, which obviously asks the question why did the judge decide to bring it to court then dismiss it so quickly?"

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said: "Seven further arrest warrants remain outstanding and are being actively pursued by the Iraqi authorities. We will continue to do all we can to press for the prosecution of those responsible."

Suggested Topics
Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA special investigation by Andy McSmith
Life and Style
love + sex
Arts and Entertainment
Victoria Wood, Kayvan Novak, Alexa Chung, Chris Moyles
tvReview: No soggy bottoms, but plenty of other baking disasters on The Great Comic Relief Bake Off
Sport
Ashley Young celebrates the winner for Manchester United against Newcastle
footballNewcastle 0 Man United 1: Last minute strike seals precious victory
Life and Style
Tikka Masala has been overtaken by Jalfrezi as the nation's most popular curry
food + drink
Arts and Entertainment
Seth Rogan is one of America’s most famous pot smokers
filmAmy Pascal resigned after her personal emails were leaked following a cyber-attack sparked by the actor's film The Interview
News
Benjamin Netanyahu and his cartoon bomb – the Israeli PM shows his ‘evidence’
people
Arts and Entertainment
80s trailblazer: comedian Tracey Ullman
tv
News
i100
Life and Style
A statue of the Flemish geographer Gerard Kremer, Geradus Mercator (1512 - 1594) which was unveiled at the Geographical Congree at Anvers. He was the first person to use the word atlas to describe a book of maps.
techThe 16th century cartographer created the atlas
Arts and Entertainment
Stephen Tompkinson is back as DCI Banks
tvReview: Episode one of the new series played it safe, but at least this drama has a winning formula
News
i100
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: UI / UX Designer

£25000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This firm are focussed on assis...

Recruitment Genius: General Processor

£7 per hour: Recruitment Genius: A vacancy has arisen for a General Processor ...

Recruitment Genius: Outbound Sales Executive - B2B

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A great opportunity has arisen ...

Recruitment Genius: Online Sales and Customer Services Associate

£14000 - £16000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Full time and Part time positio...

Day In a Page

War with Isis: Iraq's government fights to win back Tikrit from militants - but then what?

Baghdad fights to win back Tikrit from Isis – but then what?

Patrick Cockburn reports from Kirkuk on a conflict which sectarianism has made intractable
Living with Alzheimer's: What is it really like to be diagnosed with early-onset dementia?

What is it like to live with Alzheimer's?

Depicting early-onset Alzheimer's, the film 'Still Alice' had a profound effect on Joy Watson, who lives with the illness. She tells Kate Hilpern how she's coped with the diagnosis
The Internet of Things: Meet the British salesman who gave real-world items a virtual life

Setting in motion the Internet of Things

British salesman Kevin Ashton gave real-world items a virtual life
Election 2015: Latest polling reveals Tories and Labour on course to win the same number of seats - with the SNP holding the balance of power

Election 2015: A dead heat between Mr Bean and Dick Dastardly!

Lord Ashcroft reveals latest polling – and which character voters associate with each leader
Audiences queue up for 'true stories told live' as cult competition The Moth goes global

Cult competition The Moth goes global

The non-profit 'slam storytelling' competition was founded in 1997 by the novelist George Dawes Green and has seen Malcolm Gladwell, Salman Rushdie and Molly Ringwald all take their turn at the mic
Pakistani women come out fighting: A hard-hitting play focuses on female Muslim boxers

Pakistani women come out fighting

Hard-hitting new play 'No Guts, No Heart, No Glory' focuses on female Muslim boxers
Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star

Surreal deal: Leonora Carrington

The artist transcended her stolid background to become an avant garde star
LGBT History Month: Pupils discuss topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage

Education: LGBT History Month

Pupils have been discussing topics from Sappho to same-sex marriage
11 best gel eyeliners

Go bold this season: 11 best gel eyeliners

Use an ink pot eyeliner to go bold on the eyes with this season's feline flicked winged liner
Cricket World Cup 2015: Tournament runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

Cricket World Cup runs riot to make the event more hit than miss...

The tournament has reached its halfway mark and scores of 300 and amazing catches abound. One thing never changes, though – everyone loves beating England
Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Heptathlete ready to jump at first major title

Katarina Johnson-Thompson: Ready to jump at first major title

After her 2014 was ruined by injury, 21-year-old Briton is leading pentathlete going into this week’s European Indoors. Now she intends to turn form into gold
Syrian conflict is the world's first 'climate change war', say scientists, but it won't be the last one

Climate change key in Syrian conflict

And it will trigger more war in future
How I outwitted the Gestapo

How I outwitted the Gestapo

My life as a Jew in wartime Berlin
The nation's favourite animal revealed

The nation's favourite animal revealed

Women like cuddly creatures whilst men like creepy-crawlies
Is this the way to get young people to vote?

Getting young people to vote

From #VOTESELFISH to Bite the Ballot