Page last updated at 17:24 GMT, Wednesday, 17 March 2010

Soldier's mother in MoD damages case win

Robert Thomson
Robert Thomson was a trained heating and plumbing engineer

The mother of a soldier who died when a trench collapsed and buried him in Iraq has told how the £42,000 she was awarded "would never bring him back".

Margaret Valentine, 53, was speaking about the death of her son Robert Thomson, 22, after winning her damages case against the Ministry of Defence.

An Army inquiry blamed Mr Thomson, from West Lothian, for the accident.

But Ms Valentine, from Bathgate, claimed it was "a whitewash" and has been campaigning since 2004.

The Court of Session heard Mr Thomson, of the Royal Engineers, was killed in Basra.

It has taken six years and it was never about the money
Margaret Valentine
Sapper Thomson's mother

He was a trained heating and plumbing engineer installing and maintaining showers for military personnel.

But because of manpower shortages he was sent to help a group building a permanent jetty at Basra Palace and was killed in a trench there.

Ms Valentine said: "It has taken six years and it was never about the money. Money would never bring him back, supposing they gave me £40m.

"My laddie died a horrific death. He struggled to get out but couldn't.

"It was about getting here, a judge ruling that there was negligence. It was totally unsafe work and there was no regard for his safety.

"I always knew he never entered the trench of his own volition."

In the documents submitted to the court Ms Valentine's legal team claimed supports should have been used to shore up the trench because the ground was damp and there had been water seepage.

Risk assessment

Mr Thomson had no skill in such projects and the task could not be carried out safely by just two men, they added.

There had been no proper "risk assessment" of the work.

The Ministry of Defence agreed it was their policy to apply UK health and safety standards and building site rules wherever they could.

But they contested Ms Valentine's claim, insisting that Mr Thomson's training would have taught him the dangers of trench digging and the possibility of collapse.

They said the accident was his fault for going into the trench and digging with a shovel.

Lord Bonomy declared the Army had been negligent as he announced Ms Valentine had won her case.

Lord Bonomy attributed 80% responsibility to the Ministry of Defence and 20% to Mr Thomson.

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