Mull of Kintyre Chinook crash report 'clears pilots'

The wreckage of RAF Chinook ZD576
Image caption The Chinook helicopter crashed on the Mull of Kintyre on the west coast of Scotland in 1994

An official review into the Chinook helicopter crash in Scotland concludes the two dead pilots should not have been blamed, the BBC has learned.

Twenty-nine people died on the flight from Belfast to Inverness when it crashed on the Mull of Kintyre in 1994.

The independent report, chaired by retired judge Lord Philip, is expected to say that the pilots should not have been accused of gross negligence.

Lord Philip's recommendations will go to the defence secretary.

In what was the RAF's worst peacetime accident, the Chinook carrying 25 of Britain's most senior intelligence experts and four crew crashed in thick fog, killing all on board.

Over nearly two decades, campaigners have sought to have Flt Lt Jonathan Tapper, from Norfolk, and Flt Lt Richard Cook, from Hampshire, cleared of blame, but successive defence secretaries have refused to overturn the findings of two RAF Air Marshals.

The two pilots were blamed for gross negligence but the conclusions have been disputed by campaigners ever since.

After a nine month inquiry, Lord Philip's recommendations have now been submitted to Defence Secretary Liam Fox, who is due to make a statement to MPs next week on the findings.

Campaigners hope that the defence secretary will posthumously clear the pilots of blame.

Susan Phoenix, the widow of Royal Ulster Constabulary counter-terrorism expert Ian Phoenix, who died in the Chinook crash, said: "If it is true I am delighted.

"I am delighted the pilots have been cleared.

"However, I am disappointed the families were not told first."

Image caption Flt Lt Cook, left, and Flt Lt Tapper were blamed for the crash

An MoD spokeswoman said it would be "inappropriate" to comment before Mr Fox made his announcement to parliament.

She said: "The defence secretary asked Lord Philip to conduct a review of the evidence considered by the Board of Inquiry into the Mull of Kintyre Chinook accident.

"An announcement on the report's findings is due to be made to parliament shortly."

The SNP's defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP, who has campaigned to exonerate the two pilots, said he hoped the report would clear them of any blame.

He added: "It is a disgrace the way the families of Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook have been treated by successive administrations and it is time that the record was officially set straight."

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