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Last Updated: Friday, 16 March 2007, 14:04 GMT
Drawing solace after a four-year quest
By Lucy Rodgers
BBC News, Oxford

It was the moment the family of Matty Hull had been waiting four years for.

Hull family leaving Oxford Coroners Court
The Hull family spoke of their feelings after the verdict

Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner, Andrew Walker, concluded the 25-year-old Lance Corporal of Horse, from Windsor, Berkshire, was unlawfully killed when his Scimitar tank was hit by "friendly fire" in 2003.

His 30-year-old widow Susan Hull sobbed quietly as Mr Walker delivered the verdict.

He told Oxford Coroners' Court L/Cp Hull's death had been "an entirely avoidable tragedy" and that the US fighter pilots' attack on the British convoy of four vehicles near Basra "amounted to an assault" and was criminal.

Speaking after the verdict was delivered, Mrs Hull spoke to the waiting media at a press conference flanked by L/Cpl Hull's mother, Mandy 46, his father Richard, 50 and his sister Lauren McCourt, 18.

I am sure they are feeling remorse for what they did... I hope so anyway
Susan Hull

She said the family wanted to "draw a line under" the loss of the "amazing" husband, son and brother.

"I think all of our family feel it was the right verdict.

"We have waited for years to hear this - it's a mixture today of relief that it is over... but what that means for us is that Matthew's death was entirely avoidable".

She said the family were "disappointed" that US forces had been to blame for his death and at the failure of the Americans to release details they believe were missing from a US Friendly Fire Investigation Board Report (FFIB) handed to the coroner.

'Feeling remorse'

Mrs Hull had earlier appealed to US President George Bush to help find out the truth of her husband's death on the 28th March, 2003 when he came under fire from a US A-10 "Tank Buster" plane.

"It could have been far less painful with less difficulties along the way," she said.

Matty Hull's wife Susan and mother Mandy
The family said the 'right" verdict was reached

Speaking of the pilots who opened fire on her husband's tank, she said: "I hope they are at peace with themselves and they can move on with their lives.

"I am sure they are feeling remorse for what they did. I hope so anyway."

She added there were "lessons to be learnt" from the incident and she hoped there would be better co-operation between US and British forces both on the ground and in future "friendly fire" investigations.

She described her soldier husband, who served with the Household Cavalry Regiment, as an "amazing" person and that every step she had taken had been for him.

"I could go on forever about his personal strength - he was just full of fun and smiled all the time.

"He was always happy even in the face of things that were quite difficulty and trying."

She added: "In terms of his job, he was one of the most professional soldiers you could meet".

She said the family thought of L/Cpl Hull every day but they were now trying to move on.

Explaining how she would do this she said she had a place in her mind and she only went there in very "sad moments."

'Great disservice'

Earlier, the coroner offered his deepest sympathies to L/Cpl Hull's family and said: "Nothing he could ever say would be enough to comfort them in their grief."

Their suffering had been made far worse by the treatment they received, he said.

The full facts have not as yet come to light and I can only base my conclusion on the evidence that I have before me
Coroner Andrew Walker

"They have had to wait far too long for this inquest to be heard and for this I apologise.

"They, despite request after request, have been, as this court has been, denied access to evidence that would provide the fullest explanation to help understand the sequence of events that led to an caused the tragic loss of Lance Corporal Hull's life."

He paid tribute to "courage and bravery" of L/Cpl Hull and his convoy which followed "a tradition within our armed forces that we are all justifiably proud".

He had to reach a conclusion without the "full facts" before him, he said.

"I find the decision of the US authorities not to allow the relevant US personnel to attend to give evidence or themselves provide full transcripts of the questions they were asked as part of the US FFIB hard to understand."

He added: "I make it clear that I believe that the full facts have not as yet come to light and I can only base my conclusion on the evidence that I have before me."

He said he hoped this would not remain the US's position because it "was a great disservice for those who have lost their lives in the service of their country".


VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The cockpit video of the friendly fire incident



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