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Last Updated: Monday, 16 October 2006, 16:06 GMT 17:06 UK
'Nothing will replace' widow's husband
Shona Beattie
Shona Beattie describes her husband as "the best guy"
All this week the BBC will have interviews with those who have lost members of their families serving with the armed forces in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Flight Sergeant Stephen Beattie from RAF Kinloss in Scotland was killed along with 13 other crew members when their Nimrod aircraft crashed near Kandahar in Afghanistan on September 2 this year.

In the first of our reports his wife Shona Beattie talks about her husband and the father of their two children.

Q: What kind of guy was Stephen?

A: He was the best guy you could ever get. He was just such a fantastic husband and a marvellous father.

He was a great humorous guy with lots of one-words, one-liners that just put everybody into laughter, as well as being a very sensible and stable person at the same time.

Q: You were saying he didn't even want to go for his commission because that would have disrupted family life?

A: Yes. He was more interested in us as a family and I'm so glad he did that, because little did we know we'd have this short time together. We've been married 15 [years], so at least we've had all that time together.

Q: Why did he join the RAF in the first place?

A: He always wanted to join the RAF and I think he started off in the ATC [Air Training Corps] as a child, then going on to do his private pilot's licence at the Perth aerodrome and then from there went on and was taken into the airforce.

He has packed so much into his 42 years. He's been all over the world, you know, with the Nimrods.

All I can remember is Steve coming in the summertime saying 'I can't remember, Shona, the last time I've taken off in a plane with all parts working'
Shona Beattie

Q: What actually happened on that day?

They took off and I believe, this is what the group captain...told me when they came round, that they were air-to-air refuelling and something went wrong from the air and there seemed to be a fire coming out of the bomb bay.

They were less than three minutes from Kandahar airport for landing and there was an explosion about 3,000 feet.

Q: This wasn't a plane getting shot down in combat, it wasn't a missile that hit it. It was clearly a technical failure, something that went wrong after the mid-air fuelling, so how do you feel about that?

A: I find it very difficult to accept that I've lost all and my children have lost a father because of a technical fault. We have 18 children that were in the 12-man crew from Kinloss without fathers and I feel this really needs to be addressed.

The ministerial powers-that-be make these decisions supposedly on safety terms, but there is something seriously wrong here and all I can remember is Steve coming in the summer time saying: "I can't remember, Shona, the last time I've taken off in a plane with all parts working."

Stephen Beattie
Stephen Beattie was a doting father of two children

You know they've cut back, cut back, ground crew especially and, you know, they've got to listen to this.

Q: What are your feelings about what Stephen was doing out there and do you think they should be there at all, given the back-up?

A: The problem I have is it's a Nato alliance force out there and Britain seems to be the one that are heading up the alliance force there.

There are other countries in Nato that are as well-equipped as Britain - mainly France and Germany - that don't appear to be supporting the role as much as the Canadians, the Dutch, the Americans and I feel that has got to be addressed because it's British lives that are being lost, especially in Afghanistan.

Q: Do you think he was actually making a difference and did he feel he was making a difference?

A: Yes he certainly did think, in the jobs that they were doing, he was making a marked difference to this country.

Q: How have you coped since the accident?

Stephen Beattie's coffin
Mr Beattie's body was flown back to RAF Kinloss
The worst thing was the knock on the door....you just never want to experience that. Nothing can prepare you for that, nothing can be worse in life - I hope not - than what we experienced on that Saturday night.

I couldn't have wished for more support. And all the family and friends and the wider community have been immense but we've got to live it.

Q: Anybody who is in the forces is clearly, when they go into a hostile situation, putting their lives on the line. Was this a situation that you ever considered you might have been in?

A: We all knew the crew that was on the Nimrod [crash] in Toronto [in 1995] so some of our friends were involved in that. Unfortunately little did we think that we would end up in the same boat as them.

And Steve was willing to serve Queen and country, and loved his job and the airforce, but he was not prepared to give his life up for a technical fault.

I don't want anybody else to experience what we've had to experience
Shona Beattie
Q: What will be your lasting memories of Stephen?

A: The one that I have is him waving goodbye to the children on the bus, with them saying, "I love you, daddy," stickers that they'd made from Kinloss to go down to Brize Norton on the bus.

But I will always remember him with the children. He was really a hands-on dad. He would take them on cycle runs...we would go out walks with the dog, he's be...playing football with Cameron, he'd be teaching the kids how to work the computer.

He was such a great guy that nothing will replace him.

Interview with Shona Beattie

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