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Last Updated: Friday, 15 December 2006, 16:15 GMT
Dead soldier tape accuses general
Sgt Steve Roberts
Sgt Roberts was the first British soldier killed in action in Iraq
Tapes recorded by a UK tank commander killed by "friendly fire" in Iraq have been played at his inquest.

Sgt Steve Roberts, 33, was shot outside the town of Az Zubayr in southern Iraq on 24 March 2003.

The inquest heard Sgt Roberts had to give up body armour three days before his death because of shortages.

In the tapes he accuses General Sir Mike Jackson, then Chief of the General Staff, of telling "a blatant lie" when he said troops were combat-ready.

The tank commander also describes the lack of equipment as "disgraceful" and a "joke".

Wife's tape

The tapes run from 13 March - when the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment were in Kuwait preparing to enter Iraq - until 23 March.

He also recorded a tape for his wife Samantha in the event of his death.

In one extract, Sgt Roberts tells her: "I know now why I am here and what I'm doing.

"Children are walking around with bare feet, completely ill-fitting, tattered old clothes. We're over here to free them from the regime they're under so they can grow up and do whatever they want to do."

'Running out'

The lack of equipment is repeatedly referred to in Sgt Roberts' recordings.

In one he says: "General Jackson said 'we're ready to go', and our vehicles are still in the boat, ready to come into port. What a blatant lie that was."

He said it was "a bit of a joke running out of frontal armour and comnets (radios), interesting to see what armour I actually get - I'll keep you posted obviously."

On 21 March he says preparations were going well but adds: "Still haven't seen my combats yet. Kit we're being told we are going to get, we're not. It's disheartening because we know we're going to have to go to war without the correct equipment."

He also reports an incident in which US planes bombed one of their own tanks, and a moment when his regiment nearly fired on US troops believing them to be the enemy.

Answer questions

Pathologists found that had he been wearing Enhanced Combat Body Armour (ECBA) - meant to be issued to troops before battle commenced - he would have survived.

Former defence secretary Geoff Hoon may not have to answer questions at the inquest about the preparations war after all.

On Thursday, Oxfordshire assistant deputy coroner Andrew Walker called on Mr Hoon to attend to explain why there had been an eight-week delay in authorising the ordering of more body armour.

Ministry of Defence (MoD) lawyer David Evans said its director of capability, resources and scrutiny David Williams would be put forward.

"I am told he is in a position to deal with that eight-week period," said Mr Evans.

The Oxford inquest into the death of Sgt Roberts, of Shipley, West Yorkshire, and originally from Cornwall, was adjourned until Monday.

Soldier gave fatal shooting order
13 Dec 06 |  Bradford
'Ill-equipped' troops sent to war
12 Dec 06 |  Bradford

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