MoD admits errors in friendly fire case

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The Ministry of Defence yesterday apologised to the mother of a Marine killed in the war with Iraq after it took almost a year to admit publicly his death was the result of "friendly fire".

Julie Maddison said it was "disgraceful" that the MoD insisted their botched investigation into her son's death was in fact correct and this meant she might never have known how he died.

Christopher Maddison, 24, died from shrapnel wounds on 30 March last year when his landing craft came under fire while on river patrol in the Al-Faw peninsula near Basra. An initial Royal Military Police inquiry said an Iraqi missile attack was responsible, but the MoD admitted yesterday that Cpl Maddison was accidentally shot by British troops.

Doubts were raised about the conclusions in a BBC documentary series Fighting the War, which suggested he might have been killed by British anti-tank fire, and Cpl Maddison's mother Julie began pressing the MoD for an explanation.

The series caused a bitter dispute between the Government and the BBC team, but yesterday the MoD accepted that BBC journalists had "played an important role" by questioning the military police inquiry.

The MoD issued its apology after a Board of Inquiry report into the death of Cpl Maddison was leaked. The report found that Cpl Maddison was killed by friendly fire, and it criticised the initial investigation, saying the Marines' operation was plagued by bad planning, poor communications and inadequate equipment.

Mrs Maddison, from Scarborough, said it was "disgraceful" that her family might never have known what happened to her son.

"We had the right to know. The military sometimes have this idea that once they have signed up a recruit they do not belong to us any more. But they are quite happy to send them home in a coffin."

An MoD spokeswoman said the Board of Inquiry report concluded that "most regrettably and tragically" Cpl Maddison was killed by "friendly fire". She said this was "different to the original statement made shortly after the incident by the Special Investigation Branch.

"Christopher Maddison's parents were made aware of that some months ago. The Ministry of Defence deeply regrets the tragic loss of Christopher Maddison's life and has offered renewed condolences to his parents, relations, comrades and friends. We are also sorry that it has taken such a long time to establish the facts," she said.

The spokeswoman added that it was also "clear" BBC journalists working in the area at the time "played an important role in questioning the initial conclusions".

The spokeswoman also said the recommendations from the Board of Inquiry's report are now being studied to see how the MoD can learn from any failings in its procedures.

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