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Last Updated: Sunday, 18 January, 2004, 13:20 GMT
Iraq widow ups pressure on Hoon
Corporal Dewi Pritchard
Corporal Dewi Pritchard died in Iraq last August
The widow of a Welsh soldier has increased pressure on Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon to resign over allegations British troops in the Gulf did not have access to vital equipment.

Tracey Pritchard has claimed her husband Corporal Dewi Pritchard, who died in Iraq last year, had complained that he did not have a fully protected armoured car.

Three days after telling her of his concerns, the 35-year-old from Bridgend, south Wales, was killed when gunmen ambushed the unarmoured civilian vehicle he was using in Basra.

It comes just days after Mr Hoon said he was "extremely sorry" that another soldier who was killed in Iraq lacked the proper body armour.

Sergeant Steve Roberts, 33, was told to hand back his flak jacket while serving with the 2nd Royal Tank Regiment, because there were not enough to go around.

There was no defence - everyone in that car was a sitting duck
Julie Pritchard, cousin of Cpl Pritchard's widow Tracey

Days later, on 24 March last year, he was shot dead trying to quell a riot.

His widow Samantha has called for Mr Hoon to quit saying he has "blood on his hands".

In an audio diary to his wife, Sgt Roberts, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, called supplies to soldiers "a joke" and the shortages "disgraceful".

A preliminary MoD report into the death of her husband indicated armour could have saved his life.

Cpl Pritchard and two other officers died when their rented civilian 4x4 vehicle was ambushed on 23 August.

Funeral of Corporal Dewi Pritchard
Tracey Pritchard (second from right) says her husband had complained

The father-of-two, a Territorial Army soldier serving with 116 Provost Company (Volunteers), Royal Military Police, had been working to restore law and order in the region.

His wife Tracey has told the Mail on Sunday newspaper that he had complained the Nissan Patrol car they were using offered them no protection from attack.

Mrs Pritchard's cousin Julie told BBC Wales that Cpl Pritchard had expressed his fears to Tracey.

"Can you imagine how Tracey is feeling, knowing he went out there with the feelings he expressed to her, and then, three days later he was killed," she said.

"It's a nightmare," she added, saying general supplies were also a major problem.

Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon
Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon is under pressure to resign

"The boots he was wearing were from an American soldier because his boots weren't equipped for the desert arid conditions.

"He didn't have body gear on, and the car he was driving in when he was killed was not armoured.

"There was no defence - everyone in that car was a sitting duck."

A recent National Audit Office report concluded there had been problems with the supply of vital equipment but also praised the scale and speed of the military operation in Iraq.

Conservative shadow defence secretary Nicholas Soames, who has urged Mr Hoon to resign, welcomed the "apology" in Sgt Roberts' case, but said the minister should not dodge responsibility for kit shortages.




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