Two bereaved fathers who are united by their grief and their anger

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The Independent Online

Roger Bacon, 63, is a former Metropolitan Police detective whose son, Major Matthew Bacon, 34, was killed by a roadside bomb on 11 September 2005. He and his wife, Maureen, have another son.

Peter Brierley, 55, is a CCTV operator from West Yorkshire whose son, Lance Corporal Shaun Brierley, 28, was killed in a road accident on 30 March 2003 , shortly after the invasion. He and his wife, Christine, have two other sons and a daughter.

Mechanical problems contributed to both deaths.

Brought together by 'The Independent', this is the first time the men have met and following are excerpts from their conversation.

Roger Bacon: "I returned from seeing my other son, Nick, last night. I felt lost. I felt directionless. Although we have plans to move forward, you don't have the same motivation. The fact we still have Nick helps us along."

Peter Brierley: "We have other children, a son and daughter living at home and a son who lives five minutes away. We still have a family unit. They are now doing the things Shaun would have been doing. When Craig got married, it was what Shaun would have already done."

POST-MORTEM INQUIRIES

PB: "Even I can't imagine how you feel. My son died in an accident. I am assuming you had to have a sealed coffin."

RB: "No. He was not in a sealed coffin. We got to see him. I know one or two cases where there was nothing to see - for those families it must be hugely difficult.

"If you don't get that bit of the process, everything is still left open. We have only just got the post-mortem report - five months later."

PB: "We waited 18 months. In fact, we still have not seen it. My wife still doesn't feel up to that. My son still has not had an inquest because there is a backlog in the Brize Norton area [where the bodies are flown back to]."

RB: "We know the reason it took five and a half months - there is a criminal investigation because my son died once war was declared over and therefore peace had broken out.

"Any death by enemy action is treated as a murder inquiry. Nobody has ever been charged. I think it is highly unlikely they ever will be. We just hope the perpetrators are dead, that they got caught up in some other action."

PB: "We had an inquiry. It was treated as a traffic accident investigation. When we went along to the [High] court case with the Military Families Against the War, the judge wanted to take out some of the cases including ours because my son died in a road accident. They also wanted to take out those who died in the early helicopter crash. My son was a serving soldier in a war zone. He was doing his duty, but they tried to take him out of the court case.

"He was in a Land Rover transporting officers between two camps. They had fitted equipment on to the Land Rover to signal helicopters."

RB: "A transponder?"

PB: "Yes. But the mechanics hadn't been trained to fit it. There was a mound of asphalt and it hit it and rolled the Land Rover."

RB: "It was only after the funeral that we learnt in a newspaper that Matt had been travelling in a Land Rover because the old Lynx helicopter he was due to be travelling in had developed a mechanical fault. The Ministry of Defence said the paper had got it wrong - it wasn't an old Lynx, it was one of the latest Merlin Mark III helicopters that had developed a fault."

WAR COVERAGE

PB: "At the time Shaun died we were still at war. The television cameras were actually there. It was like nothing you had ever seen. It looked like a film but it was real ammunition, people were being killed in front of your face and Shaun was part of that.

"Imagine, in the First and Second World Wars people received a letter every six months, and we were getting 24-hour news."

RB: "Because there were so many people who died in those wars, people knew a neighbour who had suffered the same. That makes a huge difference. We are isolated."

PB: "That is why it has taken so long for the families to get together, because they are isolated."

DATES OF DEATHS

PB: "Last time we were down [in London], we were at the Union Jack Club, where Prince Charles was going to meet some of the wounded. None of them wanted to meet him. It was hard to see a 19-year-old with a leg missing, another bloke with an arm missing.

"My neighbour's son joined the same unit Shaun was in. They came to us and said 'what is a passing-out parade?'. My wife said she would show them the video of Shaun's. We saw the date on it and it was exactly 10 years to the day he landed back in Brize Norton. It took a place at 12 noon and when he landed back the plane taxied around at 12 noon."

RB: "We have our dates too - 11 September."

REASONS FOR WAR

PB: "I remember the memorial service. Tony Blair snuck in just before the Queen and went out straight after and didn't speak to us. We were sat two rows behind the Queen and we didn't even see him. If he says what he is doing is right, why can't he face people?"

RB: "It does signify someone who seems to feel he is on a sticky wicket, someone who has almost got a guilty conscience."

PB: "I honestly believed no one would send anyone's son to a war that people would die in without a damn good reason. For a long time I honestly believed it was justified."

RB: "I had come to the conclusion by the time war was declared that we ought not to be involved. I didn't think there were any weapons of mass destruction. At the same time, I was not unhappy about the removal of Saddam Hussein."

PB: "I would say that still."

RB: "But that didn't justify going to war. They told us it was to rid the world of terrorism. That's a lot of old cobblers."

PB: "That has been proved wrong over and over again because it has increased terrorism."

RB: "It would certainly make life a lot easier if you were able to say it was a just cause."

BEFORE THEY LEFT FOR IRAQ

RB: "You always imagine they are invincible. He had come back from other places. They don't think twice about it."

PB: "Shaun had actually sat in a bar with a friend and they said that when they went to Iraq they would both get VCs [Victoria Crosses]. Someone pointed out that VCs were usually posthumous. They joked about it. They believed they could do anything."

WHAT NOW FOR UK IN IRAQ?

RB: "It just can't go on. It has got to stop."

PB: "The war has been over for two years. Why are people having to go through what we went through almost three years ago?

"I actually think Tony Blair is a good politician if you look at his record on other things. But he made one hell of a mistake and he has to admit to that. It appears to me he wanted to go to war and he was going no matter what."

RB: "That's exactly it, in conjunction with the man across the water. But he didn't take the country with him."

PULLING TOGETHER

RB: "There is no system within the MoD to bring families together."

PB: "Maybe they think it is better; there would be strength in numbers."

RB: "They should be bigger than that. They should have the welfare of the families at heart."

PB: "When [Sergeant] Christian Hickey died in October, we realised Mrs Hickey lived five miles away and rang her. I spoke to her for a minute and then my wife spoke to her, for two hours."

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