Mother challenges MoD to explain why her son died

Kim Sengupta
Wednesday 05 May 2010 00:00

Jacqui Janes will arrive at this morning's inquest into the death of her soldier son after enduring a sleepless night. That has been the way since 20-year-old Jamie was killed in Afghanistan by a roadside bomb – restless nights full of memories and questions about what happened.

"I can still see his face, always smiling, always full of life. You keep on thinking it is all a terrible mistake and one day he will just walk back in," she said. "But of course that is not going to be the case. He is not coming back. I am desperately hoping that the inquest will try to give an explanation why he died. If anything could have been done to save him and others like him who died in Afghanistan.

"I do not think my son died in vain. I think what he and the others were doing was for a good cause, protecting the Afghan people from the Taliban. I have heard some terrible things the Taliban have done to their own people. But we must look at why our soldiers are dying and unless we learn some lessons, other mothers will be grieving in the future when they shouldn't have to."

The inquest into the death of Grenadier Guardsman Janes in Helmand comes on the eve of the election, and the young soldier's death has already embroiled Gordon Brown in controversy. Mrs Janes had complained when a letter of condolence from the Prime Minister arrived with her son's name misspelt and subsequently accepted an apology from Mr Brown.

"What I and all his friends remember was just how dedicated Jamie was to join the Army. He had chronic asthma but at the age of 13 decided to stop taking the medicine for it and willed himself to overcome it. He was dyslexic, but he got nine GCSEs."

Mrs Janes will use her platform at the inquest in Brighton, near where she lives, to question the Ministry of Defence on whether her son and his comrades were supplied with all the necessary equipment needed to protect themselves against IEDs (improvised explosive devices).

Mrs Janes is particularly concerned about the availability of an advanced hand-held bomb detector, and the numbers of helicopters needed to carry out medical evacuations.

"Bob Ainsworth [Defence Secretary] told me at a meeting in February that there was just one type of Valens," said Mrs Janes. "But I have heard from other soldiers that the specialist bomb disposal teams have better ones. Why weren't they given to the other soldiers? After all, they face bombs every day. I know the boys on the ground did everything possible to save him. But I wonder if he could have been saved if the helicopter had got to him in time."

Defence officials acknowledge that specialist counter-IED teams have been given different types of hand-held detectors. But they stress that these are at a trial stage and are not yet ready for general distribution. They also point out that a helicopter arrived at the scene of Guardsman Janes' injury within the prescribed time.

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