After 11 years, Government apology to family of Wythenshawe soldier killed in Iraq “mobile coffin”
The family of Wythenshawe soldier Pte Lee Ellis who was killed in the Iraq war has received a letter of apology from Defence Decretary Michael Fallon about the circumstances of his death.
Pte Ellis was one of dozens of soldiers killed while travelling in a lightly armoured Snatch Land Rover, dubbed “mobile coffins” during the conflict in 2006.
Sir Michael Fallon wrote to a number of families apologising for delays in bringing in alternative protected vehicles “which could have saved lives”.
Pte Ellis’ sister, Karla told the BBC the letter was “cherry on the cake” following the victory in the High Court which recognised the duty of care the government had for her brother and other soldiers in the war.
She said her brother knew the vehicles were dangerous. “I saw Lee the Christmas before he was killed and he said he didn’t want to go back because he didn’t feel safe.
At least 37 UK soldiers died in conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan while travelling in Snatch Land Rovers, with last year’s Chilcot Inquiry heavily critical of delays in replacing them.
Pte Ellis’ family was among several who were given early sight of the 12 volume 2.6 million word report. His mother, Ronnie Bariek, from Wythenshawe, said she broke down in tears when she read the report.
Pte Ellis who was killed by a roadside bomb along with Cpt Richard Holmes, became the first hero to have his name added to a war memorial in Manchester since World War Two.
Ms Bariek said the report found that the vehicle her son was travelling in when it was destroyed by a home made bomb was “not fit for purpose”.
The Defence Secretary’s letter said: “I am fully aware of the struggle you have had to bring this matter to court over the last decade and I recognise this has had a significant impact on you and your family,” Sir Michael wrote in his letter to the families.
“The Government entirely accepts the findings of Sir John Chilcot in the Iraq Inquiry in relation to Snatch Land Rover.
“I would like to express directly to you my deepest sympathies and apologise for the delay, resulting from the decisions taken at the time in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.
“I confirm that we have learnt lessons from this. The Government must and will ensure that our Armed Forces are always properly equipped and resourced.”