Friendly fire death criminal and unlawful, rules inquest

THE killing of friendly fire victim Matty Hull in Iraq four years ago was a “criminal, unlawful act” tantamount to manslaughter, a coroner ruled yesterday.

The widow of 25-year-old Lance Corporal Hull broke down as the coroner delivered his damning verdict that the US pilot acted outside the rules of engagement.

“The attack on the convoy amounted to an assault,” he said. “There was no lawful reason for it and in that respect it was criminal.”

Susan Hull, 30, who campaigned to find the truth about how and why her husband died said after the inquest: “It’s what we waited four years to hear. There’s a great sense of relief it’s over. We heard what we waited to hear but what that means for us is that Matthew’s death was entirely avoidable.”

Assistant Deputy Coroner Andrew Walker said the pilot failed to “properly identify the vehicles and seek clearance before opening fire” on March 28, 2003, killing Lance Cpl Hull and injuring four soldiers.

The inquest heard a cockpit recording in which the pilots wrongly identified orange panels — meant to identify friendly vehicles — as rockets and the regiment’s reconnaissance patrol Scimitars as enemy fighters.

A US Department of Defence spokesman said the pilots followed “applicable procedures” and said it was “a tragic accident”.

US authorites came under fire from Mr Walker who said the “pain and suffering” their lack of cooperation caused the Hull family was inexcusable.

The US refused to release the cockpit recording of the incident until a newspaper leaked it around the world. The pilots had no combat experience or training in recognising coalition vehicles.

The British Ministry of Defence said it was “sorry for confusion and upset” caused over handling of the cockpit footage, which it knew about in April 2003.

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