Stoke & Staffordshire

Allbutt death: Court to rule in 'MoD negligience' cases

Stephen Allbutt
Image caption Cpl Stephen Allbutt died in a "friendly fire" incident in Iraq in March 2003

"I know it won't bring Steve back but I believe things happen for a reason. Maybe that's what has happened to me, so I can change things in the future for troops."

After her husband, Cpl Stephen Allbutt, from Sneyd Green in Stoke-on-Trent, died in a "friendly fire" incident in Iraq in 2003, his wife, Debi, made a promise to herself.

"I said I would get justice for him and I would stop this ever happening again," she said.

Cpl Allbutt died aged 35, on 25 March 2003, after the Challenger 2 tank he was in was hit by a shell from another British tank.

Trooper David Clarke, from Littleworth in Stafford, was also killed.

Soldiers Dan Twiddy, of Stamford in Lincolnshire, and Andy Julien, of Bolton were badly wounded.

On Monday, the Court of Appeal ruled that Mrs Allbutt, Mr Twiddy and Mr Julien could sue the Ministry of Defence (MoD) for negligence, along with the family of Pte Lee Ellis, who was killed in a Snatch Land Rover in February 2006.

Watching the news on a big screen at Swan Bank Methodist Mission in Burslem, Stoke-on-Trent, Mrs Allbutt burst into tears as she heard the ruling.

Speaking afterwards, she said: "It's been really emotionally draining.

"People won't believe how much fighting this wears you down. I feel like I've aged 40 years.

"At times I did stop and think 'how am I going to get through all this', even this morning when I woke up, I think about Steve, and it's just about what's right and what's wrong.

"It's all been worth it because this is a landmark decision."

'Should be accountable'

Mrs Allbutt claims the tank was not equipped with technology available to protect the soldiers from the risk of friendly fire.

She also claims that they had not been provided with adequate vehicle recognition training.

"Soldiers sign up to fight for their country, and they are prepared to die for their country but not in the manner that Steve died," she said.

"The MoD should be looking after our men and women and if something fails then it should be taken to a court and reviewed and if something has gone wrong, that person should be accountable."

Following the court ruling, a Ministry of Defence spokesman said: "Our thoughts and concerns remain with those that were injured and the families of those that sadly lost their lives.

"We are considering the judgment by the Court of Appeal and as this is likely to be subject to further legal action it would be inappropriate for us to comment further."

The inquest into Cpl Allbutt's death, held in Oxfordshire in July 2007, heard he died from multiple injuries and that a top Army officer's handling of the incident was "fatally flawed."

An unlawful killing verdict could not be given because of combat immunity.

Mrs Allbutt said: "One of the things that upsets me more is that the MoD haven't been prepared to hold their hands up and say we were wrong.

"They won't say we're sorry, they aren't even prepared to say we will be accountable and we will change things and stop this from happening again in the future.

"I'm hoping we can now win the case but even if we don't I feel we've opened some big floodgates.

"Hopefully the next person can come in and get those necessary changes made for our troops because the door is wide open now."

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