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MoD faces negligence charge in Christopher Roney case

THE brother of a soldier shot dead by US helicopter pilots in Afghanistan has accused the Ministry of Defence of negligence, an inquest heard yesterday.

Christopher Roney
Christopher Roney

THE brother of a soldier shot dead by US helicopter pilots in Afghanistan has accused the Ministry of Defence of negligence, an inquest heard yesterday.

Lance Corporal Christopher Roney of 3rd Battalion The Rifles was killed in the ‘friendly fire’ incident in December 2009.

And his brother William said the MoD should be held accountable for the mistakes that he believes led to him dying.

The 23-year-old, from Southwick in Sunderland, died from head injuries a day after the Apache helicopters attacked Patrol Base Almas where he was serving in Sangin in Helmand province.

After the base was rocked by a Taliban bomb at 6.30pm, insurgents launched an attack on the British soldiers based there and two US helicopters were sent to help them.

But the gunships fired 200 rounds on the base thinking it was an enemy position, killing L/Cpl Roney and leaving six men badly injured.

None of the platoon at Almas were made aware of the helicopters’ presence in the area, which British Army officials said was down to a “busy” and “overloaded” operations room.

Mr Roney told the inquest: “It has occurred to us over the past five weeks that evidence supplied by the MoD has been delayed and delivered at times to suit them.

“It was written and worded cleverly to make the situation seem a lot less serious.”

He added: “ ‘Fog of war’ was a phrase used in the press by the MoD instead of saying what should’ve been said, which is ‘negligence’, plain and simple.

“This has upset the family badly and gives the impression that Chris and his injured comrades meant very little to the MoD.”

He also described some of the witnesses called during the week-long inquest at Sunderland Civic Centre as having a “blasé” attitude and said their responses “were not that of a professional soldier” or of “someone who cared”.

Speaking of the Army staff responsible for relaying details of the aircraft to the platoon, Mr Roney said: “We believe if they had only paid more attention to what they were doing, and also followed protocol and made Patrol Base Almas aware of their intentions with the Apaches, then Chris and his comrades would have been OK.

“We are constantly being told that they were very busy and overloaded with information, but there’s been evidence showing there was no contact with insurgents in the area at the time.”

He added: “The family are of the opinion that history teaches us that individuals are responsible for their actions and in any other job people are held accountable for their actions.

“We believe the MoD Army employees should be no exception to this rule in the circumstances.”

Mr Roney’s submissions came after Major Giles Malec, whose team were controlling the attack helicopters on the day in question, gave evidence during which he admitted errors were made.

He said: “One of the big things we learned very quickly, we all agreed that we were too quick to help and obviously we should have stood off the trigger.”

There were also questions raised over the combat identification kit provided to troops on the ground that are meant to make them visible.

Assurances were given by Major Simon Roberts that new, improved kits have been brought in since December 2009.

The platoon leader at Almas, Captain Palmer Winstanley, also paid to tribute L/Cpl Roney as the “ultimate professional” who “loved a battle”, saying: “I have never seen a man come alive more when he was fighting. He was an outstanding soldier, really humorous, really good to be around, bags of moral courage to question me and what I was doing.”

Coroner Derek Winter is expected to return a verdict today.

 

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