Widow calls for defence budget review

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The Independent Online

The widow of a soldier killed by a hidden bomb in Afghanistan has urged the Government to urgently review armed forces' equipment.

Serjeant Paul "Mac" McAleese, 29, the son of an SAS veteran, John McAleese, who helped to end the Iranian embassy siege in London, was killed by an improvised explosive device as he tried to recover a fallen comrade, an inquest heard.

Serjeant McAleese, of 2nd Battalion The Rifles (which uses the antiquated spelling of Serjeant), risked his own life to retrieve the body of Private Johnathon Young, 18, of 3rd Battalion The Yorkshire Regiment, who died 30 minutes before him on the same perilous route in Sangin district. The Wiltshire coroner, David Ridley. recorded a verdict of unlawful killing for both soldiers at the inquest in Trowbridge Town Hall.

After the hearing, Sjt McAleese's widow, Joanne, called on David Cameron's Government to review military spending and resources. She said: "As Mac's wife it has been very hard to hear the evidence today. In my opinion the device that killed Mac was impossible to detect with the equipment provided to our soldiers. Many more soldiers have died since Mac's death in a very similar way. How can this be allowed to continue?

"I would like to call upon this new Government to urgently review the equipment and the budget. Our soldiers fight every day in the difficult circumstances we have heard about today. They deserve the very best."

Major Rupert Follett told the hearing his soldiers were involved in an operation on 20 August last year to restrict Taliban movement along a route known as "Pharmacy Road" near Forward Operating Base (FOB) Wishton. He said the route was littered with IEDs and soldiers had been killed in the area.

Pte Young, from Hull, was using a metal detector to search an area where troops intended to build a defensive wall when he stood on an IED at 7.30am and was killed instantly. Major Follett said Pte Young's body was potentially surrounded by more bombs so the men decided the only way to recover him was to use a motorised winch.

Pte Young's mother Angela left the court in tears as they described attaching the winch to her son's body. "We were able to attach the winch under Pte Young's armpit," Major Follett said. "Mac stepped over the winch, and there was a second explosion. The second explosion knocked me off my feet. As the dust was settling I sent a report over the radio. "There was lots of shouting of, 'Mac, Mac, where's Mac?' He was blown 8m and landed in an alleyway."