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Last Updated: Tuesday, 30 January 2007, 18:13 GMT
Vehicles 'risk' soldiers' lives
Phillip Hewett, Leon Spicer and Richard Shearer (l-r)
The three men were killed while on patrol
The mother of a British soldier killed by a bomb in Iraq has said soldiers' lives are being risked by patrolling in lightly-armoured Land Rover vehicles.

Pte Leon Spicer, Pte Phillip Hewett, 21, both of Tamworth, Staffs, and 2nd Lt Richard Shearer, 26, of Nuneaton, Warks, died in the attack in July 2005.

A coroner ruled on Tuesday that all three were unlawfully killed.

But Sue Smith, mother of Pte Hewett, said she was considering legal action to stop the use of the Land Rovers.

The three soldiers were travelling in a "snatch" Land Rover when they were killed by the bomb near Al Amarah in southern Iraq.

There is a good chance he may have survived had he been in a Warrior
Lt Shearer's mother, Maureen

Their families said the soldiers should have been in more heavily armoured Warrior vehicles.

Mrs Smith accused ministers of of ignoring the deaths of 20 soldiers killed while in the lighter Land Rovers since 2003.

Lt Shearer's mother, Maureen, added: "They haven't got the best of equipment, they are too far stretched on men and vehicles, that's what Richard said when he was on leave.

"There is a good chance he may have survived had he been in a Warrior, but who can say."

Major General Peter Wall told the inquest that smaller vehicles were seen as a better option.

Less imposing

"Warriors are big, cumbersome vehicles which are better protected but do not have the operational utility," he said.

"In a little vehicle, it is better to interact with the local community to promote a hearts and minds approach rather than having a much more distant and imposing relationship with the community."

Routine patrols in the area were now carried out in Warriors or similar vehicles, he told the hearing.

But he said that using more heavily armoured vehicles would not have necessarily protected the soldiers from the blast, as roadside bombs had previously penetrated Warriors and even tanks.

No issues over equipment

Making her ruling at the completion of the inquest in Oxford, coroner Selena Lynch said she could make no recommendation to the Ministry of Defence about the use of the Land Rovers because it was beyond her jurisdiction.

"All these young men were brave and selfless soldiers," she said.

"Their loss will have deeply affected their colleagues and left their families bereft."

She added that there were no issues related to training, maintenance or equipment.




VIDEO AND AUDIO NEWS
The soldiers' mothers react to the verdict



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