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Tuesday, 5 February, 2002, 15:41 GMT
Chinook report 'offers nothing new'
The pilots were originally blamed for the crash
The UK Government has said it needs time to consider a report exonerating the pilots of an RAF helicopter which crashed killing 29 people.

Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram said the report from a House of Lords all-party select committee did not appear to offer new evidence.

The Lords committee concluded there was no justification for finding fault with the pilots - flight lieutenants Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper - despite the Ministry of Defence's insistence that the airmen had been "grossly negligent".

Families and supporters of the airmen have called for the government to overturn the original Ministry of Defence conclusions into the 1994 crash on the Mull of Kintyre.

Richard Cook
Richard Cook: Pilot
The RAF Chinook helicopter crashed in thick fog on its way from Northern Ireland to Inverness in June 1994.

All 29 people on board were killed, among them 25 senior Northern Ireland intelligence officers, who were travelling to an army base for a special meeting.

The RAF's own internal inquiry originally ruled that it was impossible to establish the exact cause - but said there were no "human failings".

That conclusion was overturned by two senior RAF officers, Air Vice Marshal John Day and Air Chief Marshal Sir William Wratten - who reached a verdict of gross negligence.

The House of Lords inquiry concluded there was no justification for finding fault with the men.

No new facts

Mr Ingram said the government needed time to consider the report but he did not seem ready to overturn the verdicts.

"It does seem to me on first reading that it is covering the same ground with the same information. There is no new evidence and no new facts," he said.

"There is an onus on us to give weight to the arguments that are advanced. We have to give consideration to them."

The Armed Forces minister said that the report came to a different conclusion than the senior RAF officers.

Jonathan Tapper
Jonathan Tapper: Pilot

The MoD made a limited comment on the findings which were published on Tuesday.

A spokesman said: "It is a complex issue and we will study the report in detail and make a response."

The families and supporters of the pilots expressed relief at the details of the report.

A senior member of the legal team representing Flight Lieutenant Cook's family said the decision drew a line under a "shameful episode".

Quash the findings

Solicitor Advocate Peter Watson added that unanswered questions remained about both the helicopter and the RAF's insistence that the pilots were to blame.

Liberal Democrat foreign affairs spokesman Menzies Campbell, who has backed the families during the inquiry, called on the MoD to quash the findings of its investigation into the crash.

And the defence secretary at the time of the crash ,Sir Malcolm Rifkind, has urged on the government and the MoD to act on the House of Lords report.

Sir Malcolm, who has welcomed the findings, says the initial ruling accusing the pilots of gross negligence could no longer be sustained.

The BBC's Paul Adams
"The MoD says it will study the report but for the moment it's standing by its existing verdict"
Armed Forces Minister Adam Ingram
"There is no new evidence or facts"
Former RAF navigator, John Nichol
"You cannot say, without any doubt, what caused this accident"
See also:

05 Feb 02 | Scotland
Inquiry clears Chinook crash pilots
05 Feb 02 | Scotland
Chinook crash: Timeline
05 Feb 02 | Scotland
Q & A: Chinook crash inquiry
23 Jan 02 | Scotland
Chinook report date revealed
15 Oct 01 | Scotland
Former pilots reveal Chinook doubts
07 Feb 02 | Scotland
Chinook inquiry judge named
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