In July 2005, Sue Smith’s son, Pte Phillip Hewett, was killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a lightly armoured “snatch” Land Rover in Iraq.
He was the ninth of 37 service personnel to be killed in the vehicles in Iraq and Afghanistan, which came to be known as “mobile coffins”. Following a legal battle that reached the Supreme Court, Sue has finally got her apology from the MoD. “He didn’t die for nothing,” she says. Speaking exclusively to the BBC, Sue has recalled her journey from the inquest process, to a victory at the Supreme Court, to the Chilcot inquiry into the Iraq War. It has resulted in a settlement of her case and an apology from Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon for failures that “could have saved lives”.
“Quite honestly it was like a smack in the face. It was almost as if those three lives were worth an hour each. It shocked me that it was so dismissive. Because by then I knew that (the vehicle) was what had to be questioned,” she said. “And it was almost like I was something under someone’s foot and they just wanted to get rid of me, and it made me feel more determined because I knew there was more to be answered than what I got at the inquest.”
Desperate for answers about the Snatch, Sue founded a group called the Military Families Support Group with other families of service personnel. She was initially told by the MoD that the people in a position to decide, had decided that the Snatch was the correct vehicle for the job. She found the inability to get answers from the MoD maddening. “Sometimes I felt like they just wanted me to go away or die,” she said. But after yet another death things changed and armoured personnel carriers (APCs) were deployed on the same roads in Iraq that had been deemed too narrow for them prior to Phillip’s death. Sue decided that the only really effective way to try and get answers was legal action.
The MoD had known about the vehicle’s vulnerability and for years had failed to provide more heavily armoured vehicles. Sue believes that if the MoD had listened to her earlier, the lives of some of the 37 soldiers could have been saved.
Source: BBC News. 18th August 2017. https://www.bbc.co.uk/news/uk-40958686