Killed by kids playing?


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Thu 17 Nov 2005

Lance Corporal James McCue, 27, from Paisley, died in Al Amarah, south Iraq.
Picture: Ministry of Defence/PA

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Scottish soldier who died as he wrote home


Key points
• James McCue was killed in an explosion in southern Iraq on 30 April 2003
• The Oxford coroner said that the shell may have be fired by children
• Coroner Nicholas Gardiner recorded an open verdict

Key quote
"The possibilities are either that it was fired by somebody who knew how to fire it - not necessarily a soldier but a skilled civilian. It could simply have been children climbing over the tank." - Nicholas Gardiner, Oxford coroner

Story in full

A SCOTS soldier was writing a letter home when he was killed by a tank shell in Iraq, an inquest heard yesterday.

Lance Corporal James McCue, 27, from Paisley, was killed by the explosion at an old airbase near Al Amarah in southern Iraq on 30 April, 2003.

The inquest was told that L-Cpl McCue was found with a pen in his hand.

Nicholas Gardiner, the Oxford coroner, said local children may have fired the shell from a nearby abandoned tank.

L-Cpl McCue, serving with 7 Air Assault Battalion, Royal Electrical and Mechanical Engineers, died the day before the Iraq war was officially declared over.

Recording an open verdict, Mr Gardiner said: "James McCue just happened to be sitting in the wrong place at the wrong time, probably writing a letter."

The coroner added: "I find it difficult to make any judgment as to how that tank came to be fired.

"The possibilities are either that it was fired by somebody who knew how to fire it - not necessarily a soldier but a skilled civilian. It could simply have been children climbing over the tank.

"I don't suppose Iraqi children are any different to ours in that they tend to get into mischief. Although it grieves me to say it, I have to return an open verdict."

L-Cpl McCue's was one of three inquests heard at Oxford Coroner's Court.

Earlier, the court heard how a Black Watch soldier, Private Marc Ferns, 21, from Glenrothes, Fife, was killed in an improvised roadside bomb attack in Basra on the morning of 12 August last year.

He was travelling in a Warrior armoured vehicle when the device exploded, fellow soldiers told the hearing.

Pte Ferns was on his second tour in Iraq with 1st Battalion The Black Watch, currently based at Warminster, Wiltshire. He was part of the peace-keeping force, having served previously in the initial combat operations in the spring of 2003.

Thomas Hankey, of the Royal Signals, who investigated the incident, said the explosive device used had propelled ball-bearings at high velocity towards the vehicle.

Three of the ball-bearings entered Pte Ferns's scalp, fatally damaging his brain, the inquest heard.

Mr Hankey said it was probable that the device used was detonated with a radio-controlled system similar to that used to unlock cars.

"I'm pretty sure these devices are not locally made. They are professionally made and are being brought in from outside [Iraq]," he said. Mr Gardiner recorded a verdict of unlawful killing.

Pte Ferns's mother, Christine Morgan, and his sister, Tracey Dudgeon, 27, left the inquest in tears and refused to comment.

The third inquest was into the death of Captain David Martyn Jones, 29, from the First Queen's Lancashire Regiment, who was travelling as a passenger in a Land Rover ambulance taking a colleague to hospital to be treated for a stab wound when a bomb went off on the road beside him. The verdict was unlawful killing.
Someones head will be on the chopper, for not ensure site security by allowing a tank with one in the breach to remain aiming at the camp, basic drills would have said to check it!?!
The problem was that there were ridiculously insufficient troops to properly police the "battlefield". Between and around Ruymallah and Al Amara were the equipments of about two Iraqi divisions, several major ammunition depots (as in 20 to 30 bunkers each) and dozens of other arms caches at Police and Bathist HQs. There were whole artillery batteries and tank troops lying around fully ammo'd up and not disabled - expcept where the locals had swiped the batteries, MGs and tyres during the night. All of this ordnance went unguarded and un-disabled for weeks. Hostiles and kids alike were free to take anything away that they wanted; at least in one case - the ammo dump near the grain store in Al Amara - uncontrolled looting led to the dump being ignited into a major fireworks show.

The Amara area needed at least a Division to properly occupy and control it, rather than the one light Brigade that was available. The war/post-war plan, if there was one, did not make any provision for the securing of enemy material. One can only wonder how many of the VBIEDs over the past two years could have been avoided if sufficient troops had been used in the initial occupation of Iraq.
4(T) understand what you're saying, life on the ground wasn't as we'd expected, a case of put up and shut up, but from all accounts, the camp was set up and had been operational for some time, now i know for a fact, that area and site security is a must, so why had it not been checked.

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