Death of Marine 'in friendly fire' to be reinvestigated

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The Ministry of Defence has reopened an investigation into the killing of a Royal Marine in the Iraq war after new evidence was presented that he may have been the victim of friendly fire, The Independent has learnt.

An initial inquiry by the Royal Military Police concluded that Christopher Maddison died in an Iraqi missile attack south of Basra. But a BBC documentary series, Fighting the War, suggested that the 24-year-old may have been killed by British anti-tank fire when his landing craft was mistaken for an enemy vessel.

The report, and some of the other episodes in the series, led to recriminations between the Government and the BBC team. The MoD at one point considered taking out injunctions to stop a broadcast.

Marine Maddison's mother, Julie, subsequently wrote a number of letters to the MoD expressing her concern about the inquiry into her son's death and asking for answers to a series of questions.

Mrs Maddison, 49, said yesterday: "I am very glad about the new investigation, but I am also quite angry about the first investigation. Obviously, all that should have been done was not done at the time.

"I naturally want everything possible investigated. But that goes for everyone in the military who died there under suspicious circumstances. We know things go wrong in war, and I am not blaming anyone for his death, but we also need to know what actually happened."

Nicholas Gardiner, the Oxfordshire coroner, was sent a transcript of the BBC documentary, and has said an inquest will examine all aspects of the death.

Marine Maddison died on 30 March after a team from 539 Assault Squadron went to help another Marine boat that had been attacked.At the time there was concern among some in the military that the incident may have been a "blue on blue", or friendly fire. Another Marine unit, from 42 Commando, stationed further up the river, had fired three Milan anti-tank rockets at what they believed was an Iraqi "tug-like" vessel.

However, an investigating team from the Royal Military Police's Special Investigation Branch decided Marine Maddison and his colleagues could not have been killed by fellow Marines because their craft was 2.8km away from the anti-tank unit, beyond the 2km range of the Milan.

After the discovery of an Iraqi inflatable boat with Russian-made Sagger anti-tank missiles three days later, it was concluded that the marines had been hit by fire from that boat. But the BBC team claimed its own investigations showed Marine Maddison's boat was actually just 1.6km from the Milan unit.

A BBC spokesman said last night: "In making Fighting the War, we felt that it was in the public interest to investigate the circumstances surrounding Marine Maddison's death. The series raised doubts over the thoroughness of the report and we will be interested in seeing the result of the MoD inquiry."

An MoD spokesman said: "We believe the first inquiry was comprehensive and we did everything possible. The conclusion was based on evidence available at the time."

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