Minister to meet dead marine's family

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The Independent Online

A Government minister said today that he wanted to meet the family of a Royal Marine who are taking legal action after he died in a fire fight in Afghanistan.

Lance Corporal Mathew Ford, 30, from Immingham, north-east Lincolnshire, died in an assault on Jugroom Fort, in Helmand, in January 2007.

An inquest into L/Cpl Ford's death found the evidence was not clear enough to say whether the marine was hit by bullets from the Taliban or from his own colleagues but a Royal Navy Board of Inquiry report said it was almost certain he was shot by another British soldier.

The family are now taking legal action against the Ministry of Defence.

Today, Armed Forces Minister Bill Rammell said: "The 3 Commando Brigade assault on Jugroom Fort saw incredible acts of courage under fire and sacrifice.

"My thoughts and sympathies remain with the family and friends of L/Cpl Mathew Ford who was tragically killed on that operation.

"This incident has been the subject of extensive investigation, including a Board of Inquiry, to learn lessons and an inquest to determine the cause of death, which had the MoD's full co-operation.

"I remain committed to meeting the family of L/Cpl Ford to discuss their concerns and we are currently working to find a suitable date.

"As legal proceedings have begun it would be inappropriate for me to comment further at this stage."

Joan Ford, L/Cpl Ford's mother, told the BBC: "You can't grieve because basically you don't know what happened to him."

She continued: "They (the MoD) know what happened on that day and they should come clean and they should tell us."

The inquest in December 2008 heard that L/Cpl Ford was part of Zulu Company, which came under heavy fire from three sides as soon as the company's Viking armoured vehicle arrived outside the fort.

Four marines were hit and immediately evacuated but a series of events amid the confusion of the fire fight meant L/Cpl Ford was left behind.

His body was later recovered in a daring rescue mission in which three Royal Marines and a Royal Engineers officer strapped themselves to the sides of two Apache helicopter gunships to get him back.

One marine admitted to the inquest that he fired a burst into the fort from his machine gun mounted on a Viking vehicle but experts disagreed about what type of gun gave L/Cpl Ford his fatal head wound.

The Royal Navy Board of Inquiry report, released in August last year, criticised the training the marines had been given before the raid but said there was "no suggestion of negligence" on the part of the unnamed gunner.

Mrs Ford said she was "disgusted" with the outcome of the inquest, which recorded a narrative verdict.

L/Cpl Ford grew up on Immingham but lived in Dundee with his fiancee, Ina, a student.

He joined the Royal Marines in 2001 and was sent to Afghanistan in October 2006.