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Last Updated: Tuesday, 21 November 2006, 20:25 GMT
Marine inquest told of 'coaching'
Christopher Maddison
Marine Maddison was on river patrol on the Al Faw peninsula
The Board of Inquiry that investigated the death of a Royal Marine in Iraq has been accused of "coaching" a witness.

Plymouth-based Christopher Maddison, 24, originally from Scarborough, died in a river patrol boat after "friendly fire" on the Al Faw peninsula in 2003.

Sgt Timothy Barnes told the marine's inquest in Oxfordshire he was told what to say and what to omit by the Board.

MoD lawyer Leigh-Anna Mulcahy said she was concerned about the suggestion they had tried to influence evidence.

Sgt Barnes said: "I was informed: 'Don't mention this bit, but mention this bit'. It was like being coached - that's how I would describe it."

He added he was "coached" before the taped interview, which he said was "fair and accurate" but presented a "shortened version" of the facts.

The Oxfordshire Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker asked: "So you are suggesting that the Board of Inquiry deliberately chose what they heard from your evidence?"

I was informed: 'Don't mention this bit, but mention this bit'
Sgt Timothy Barnes

He said: "They chose to recall what they wanted to hear."

The inquest later heard that messages passed between Sgt Barnes' boat, 3 Commando Brigade headquarters and the Royal Engineers at Crossing Point Anna quickly changed from reports of a small patrol boat to two enemy patrol boats to three Iraqi gunships.

A radio message from Sgt Barnes' boat reported small arms fire from a small patrol boat heading north towards the crossing point.

A message from the same boat then reported two small craft turning around 180 degrees when they were fired on.

Five minutes later, a message was sent from headquarters to the Royal Engineers, describing two enemy patrol boats, armed with small arms only, approaching the crossing point from the south.

But the Commanding Officer of 23 Amphibious Engineers, told the coroner he had heard there were three Iraqi gunboats approaching and passed the message on to the company responsible for protecting the bridge.

He said he had no knowledge of friendly forces in his area.

The coroner also criticised the "frightening" distortion of the message. "It seems that a simple message cannot be passed down the network without it being distorted and changed in its simple context," he said.

"We begin to see the roots of this tragedy. A message has been passed in such a way as to generate a threat from two craft."

The inquest was adjourned until Wednesday.

Hundreds pay tribute to Marine
16 Apr 03 |  North Yorkshire

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