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Last Updated: Thursday, 6 December 2007, 17:59 GMT
Browne re-examines Chinook crash
Flt Lts Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper
Campaigners want to clear Richard Cook and Jonathan Tapper
The cause of a Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994 in which 29 people died is to be re-examined, BBC Scotland has learned.

Defence Secretary Des Browne is to look at papers from campaigners who say they found evidence which could posthumously clear the pilots.

The RAF accused Flt Lts Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook of "gross negligence".

Campaigners said there were serious flaws in the Chinook helicopter and will meet Mr Browne next month.

The crash, 13 years ago, was the RAF's worst peacetime accident.

Four special forces crew and 25 senior members of Northern Ireland's intelligence community died.

The Chinook helicopter crashed into a hillside while flying from RAF Aldergrove, near Belfast, to Fort George, near Inverness.

'Serious flaws'

Flt Lt Tapper, 30, from Burnham Thorpe, Norfolk, and Flt Lt Cook, 28, from Church Crookham, Hampshire, were initially cleared of blame by an RAF board of inquiry.

The men should be cleared of the charges of gross negligence which we do not think are justified
Lord Martin O'Neill
Mull of Kintyre lobby group

It ruled it was impossible to establish the exact cause of the crash.

A fatal accident inquiry reached the same conclusion.

However, that conclusion was overturned by two senior RAF officers - Air Vice-Marshal John Day and Air Chief Marshal Sir William Wratten.

They said the pilots were guilty of gross negligence for flying too fast and too low in thick fog.

Their families, military experts, and some former cabinet and defence ministers have fought to overturn the verdict.

The Ministry of Defence (MoD) has refused to change its mind - despite the findings of a cross-party committee of peers who found that the pilots could not be blamed.

Family backing

BBC Scotland's Westminster reporter, Tim Reid, said: "Campaigners had significant new evidence obtained under freedom of information laws.

"They say this proves there were serious flaws in the helicopter which were known.

"The campaigners - who have been working with a top QC - say they have enough new information to clear the pilots' names.

"Defence Secretary Des Browne is due to meet campaigners next month and will review the whole case."

Chinook helicopter crash
The site of the Chinook helicopter crash in 1994

Lord Martin O'Neill, of the Mull of Kintyre parliamentary group, said: "The men should be cleared of the charges of gross negligence which we do not think are justified.

"We are confident we can put a very strong case to the secretary of state in the hope that he will reconsider the position and either open an inquiry to look again at it or come up with a clear decision which exonerates the young men.

"The families are backing us to the hilt.

"We now have information relating to the crash which has become apparent across a whole range of air services, that was not given proper weight at the inquiry."

A spokeswoman for the MoD said: "The secretary of state for defence has agreed to meet Lord Martin O'Neill to receive a new report that the Mull of Kintyre group has compiled into the tragic loss of Chinook XD576 and to consider its contents."

There have been a series of allegations about the aircraft itself.

'Lain dormant'

Questions were asked about the reliability of the onboard Full Authority Digital Engine Control computer system.

There were also warnings that the rotors sped up and slowed down for no reason and suggestions that the controls may have jammed.

The announcement was welcomed by Shadow Home Secretary David Davis, who described it as ''fantastic news''.

Mr Davis said what had happened was a "massive miscarriage of justice which has lain dormant for too long."

As a former chairman of the Public Accounts committee, Mr Davis chaired a commons inquiry which urged ministers to reconsider blaming the two pilots for the accident.

The father of one of the pilots speaks about the case

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02 Jun 05 |  Scotland
Blair rejects Chinook crash calls
18 Aug 04 |  Scotland
Anger over MoD's crash findings
07 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Q&A: Chinook crash inquiry
03 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Service remembers Chinook victims
02 Jun 04 |  Scotland
Fact file: Chinook
14 Mar 03 |  Special Reports

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