More pain for mother of friendly-fire victim

Trooper David Clarke would have been 21 next week and few doubt he would have marked the occasion in style.

A born showman, he bungee-jumped off Blackpool pier on his last trip out with his family before heading for Iraq. The invasion was five days old when the young tank driver died, at the age of 19. He perished when his 62-ton Challenger II tank was attacked while stationary in a desert ditch just outside Basra, so becoming the first victim of British-on-British "friendly fire" in the conflict.

Like many bereaved Army families, the dependants he left behind have received about £55,000 - a quarter of that typically paid in the US. But it is his family's two-year struggle to establish why Trooper Clarke died that is proving a cause of distress, not the gap in pay-outs which has only come to light this week and is now under Ministry of Defence review.

Although the second anniversary of Trooper Clarke's death is approaching, his mother, Beverley Clarke, from Staffordshire, has just been informed that a Board of Inquiry (BoI) investigation into the fatality will not be concluded for months. It is the latest in a number of setbacks to befall her. She learned that her son's death was by friendly fire and not Iraqi fire from the media; then she had to wait 11 weeks for a body recovered from the scene to be repatriated - only to find through DNA testing that it belonged to the other victim of the Basra shelling - Corporal Stephen Allbutt. Her son's body has never been found and his funeral took place around an empty coffin.

"I want this settled now. I want to know the truth," she said this week, from a sitting-room adorned with her son's military portrait and medal from service in Kosovo.

Trooper Clarke, a Stafford Rugby Club player with plans to marry his long-term girlfriend on his return, was sent to Kosovo within six months of passing out from Harrogate Army Foundation College in 2002. He might never have found himself in Basra on the fateful night of 25 March had he not been asked to deputise for striking British firemen in November 2002. He told his family he hadn't joined the Army to fight fires, changed squadrons and left for Iraq days after his 19th birthday.

He was sitting in the tank on a break from duties when at least two shots were fired from an attacking tank of the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, with about six minutes between each. One of the many unanswered questions is why friendly-fire alerts, which Mrs Clarke has been told were raised during the six intervening minutes, were not heeded.

The BoI's terms of reference hint at some profound communication failures. It will examine why the attacking 2nd Royal Tank Regiment was briefed that no "friendly forces" were within 3 to 5km of its position and why panels marking the tank as British were not recognised.

A letter last October to Mrs Clarke's MP, David Kidney, from Ivor Caplin, a parliamentary under-secretary of state at the Ministry of Defence, states that the police investigation has led to a conclusion that there is no scope for disciplinary action. "Mrs Clarke has been fully appraised of the outcome of the investigation," Mr Caplin said.

In fact, Mrs Clarke had received no such findings - and Mr Caplin's reply is further undermined by the dead soldier's regimental secretary, Col David Simpson. "It is wrong to say [there is no scope for disciplinary action] because until the BoI has been ratified, any part of any inquiry can be overturned," he said.

Col Simpson conceded that the US death investigation system is more rapid than Britain's. "The British Army is so small now that we struggle to cope with these sorts of things," he said.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Voices
Homeless Veterans charity auction: Cook with Angela Hartnett and Neil Borthwick at Merchants Tavern
charity appealTime is running out to secure your favourite lot as our auction closes at 2pm tomorrow
Arts and Entertainment
J Jefferson Farjeon at home in 1953
booksBooksellers say readers are turning away from modern thrillers and back to golden age of crime writing
Sport
Amir Khan is engaged in a broader battle than attempting to win a fight with Floyd Mayweather
boxing Exclusive: Amir Khan reveals plans to travel to Pakistan
News
Stacey Dooley was the only woman to be nominated in last month’s Grierson awards
mediaClare Balding and Davina McCall among those overlooked for Grierson awards
PROMOTED VIDEO
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksA year of political gossip, levity and intrigue from the sharpest pen in Westminster
Voices
Joseph Kynaston Reeves arguing with Russell Brand outside the RBS’s London offices on Friday
voicesDJ Taylor: The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a worker's rant to Russell Brand
News
Twitchers see things differently, depending on their gender
scienceNew study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
News
i100
Arts and Entertainment
Caroline Flack became the tenth winner of Strictly Come Dancing
tvReview: 'Absolutely phenomenal' Xtra Factor presenter wins Strictly Come Dancing final
Life and Style
A still from the 1939 film version of Margaret Mitchell's 'Gone with the Wind'
life
News
Xander van der Burgt, at the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew
scienceA Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
Arts and Entertainment
British actor Idris Elba is also a DJ and rapper who played Ibiza last summer
film
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: Finance Director

£65000 - £80000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Finance Director required to jo...

Recruitment Genius: Medico-Legal Assistant

£15000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a unique opportunity fo...

Ashdown Group: (PHP / Python) - Global Media firm

£50000 per annum + 26 days holiday,pension: Ashdown Group: A highly successful...

The Jenrick Group: Quality Inspector

£27000 per annum + pension + holidays: The Jenrick Group: A Quality Technician...

Day In a Page

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

The week Hollywood got scared and had to grow up a bit

Sony suffered a chorus of disapproval after it withdrew 'The Interview', but it's not too late for it to take a stand, says Joan Smith
From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?

Panto dames: before and after

From Widow Twankey to Mother Goose, how do the men who play panto dames get themselves ready for the performance of a lifetime?
Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Thirties murder mystery novel is surprise runaway Christmas hit

Booksellers say readers are turning away from dark modern thrillers and back to the golden age of crime writing
Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best,' says founder of JustGiving

Anne-Marie Huby: 'Charities deserve the best'

Ten million of us have used the JustGiving website to donate to good causes. Its co-founder says that being dynamic is as important as being kind
The botanist who hunts for giant trees at Kew Gardens

The man who hunts giants

A Kew Gardens botanist has found 25 new large tree species - and he's sure there are more out there
The 12 ways of Christmas: Spare a thought for those who will be working to keep others safe during the festive season

The 12 ways of Christmas

We speak to a dozen people who will be working to keep others safe, happy and healthy over the holidays
Birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends, new study shows

The male exhibits strange behaviour

A new study shows that birdwatching men have a lot in common with their feathered friends...
Diaries of Evelyn Waugh, Virginia Woolf and Noël Coward reveal how they coped with the December blues

Famous diaries: Christmas week in history

Noël Coward parties into the night, Alan Clark bemoans the cost of servants, Evelyn Waugh ponders his drinking…
From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

From noble to narky, the fall of the open letter

The great tradition of St Paul and Zola reached its nadir with a hungry worker's rant to Russell Brand, says DJ Taylor
A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore: A prodigal daughter has a breakthrough

A Christmas ghost story by Alison Moore

The story was published earlier this month in 'Poor Souls' Light: Seven Curious Tales'
Marian Keyes: The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment

Marian Keyes

The author on her pre-approved Christmas, true love's parking implications and living in the moment
Bill Granger recipes: Our chef creates an Italian-inspired fish feast for Christmas Eve

Bill Granger's Christmas Eve fish feast

Bill's Italian friends introduced him to the Roman Catholic custom of a lavish fish supper on Christmas Eve. Here, he gives the tradition his own spin…
Liverpool vs Arsenal: Brendan Rodgers is fighting for his reputation

Rodgers fights for his reputation

Liverpool manager tries to stay on his feet despite waves of criticism
Amir Khan: 'The Taliban can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'

Amir Khan attacks the Taliban

'They can threaten me but I must speak out... innocent kids, killed over nothing. It’s sick in the mind'
Michael Calvin: Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick

Michael Calvin's Last Word

Sepp Blatter is my man of the year in sport. Bring on 2015, quick