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  1. ITV Report

Fallon 'apologies over Iraq war death'

Private Phillip Hewett died at the age of 21 Photo: PA

Defence Secretary Sir Michael Fallon has apologised to the mother of a British soldier who was killed by a roadside bomb while travelling in a Snatch Land Rover, according to reports.

In a letter seen by the BBC, Sir Michael said bringing alternative protected vehicles into service "could have saved lives".

Private Phillip Hewett, 21, of Tamworth, Staffordshire, died in July 2005 after a Snatch Land Rover was blown up.

Last year, the Chilcot Inquiry found a string of Ministry of Defence failings in the preparation for the Iraq War, including a delay in replacing the lightly-armoured Snatch Land Rovers which are vulnerable to bombs.

Pte Hewett's mother, Sue Smith, is among a number of families to have been given the go-ahead to bring compensation claims against the Government under legislation covering negligence and human rights.

In a letter to Ms Smith seen by the BBC, Sir Michael expresses his regret at Pte Hewett's death.

I am fully aware of the struggle you have had to bring this matter to court over the last decade and I recognise that this has had a significant impact on you and your family.

The Government entirely accepts the findings of Sir John Chilcot in the Iraq Inquiry in relation to Snatch Land Rover.

I would like to express directly to you my deepest sympathies and apologise for the delay, resulting in decisions taken at the time in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.

– Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon

He goes on to say that lessons have been learned, adding:

The Government must and will ensure that our Armed Forces are always properly equipped and resourced.

– Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon

Ms Smith told the BBC the apology was "bittersweet", adding:

I'd like it to be that his death made a difference. He's not just a casualty of Iraq.

– Defence Secretary, Sir Michael Fallon

An MoD spokeswoman said:

We offer our deepest sympathies and apologise for the delay in bringing into service alternative protected vehicles which could have saved lives.

The Government acknowledges and fully accepts the findings of Sir John Chilcot's inquiry in relation to Snatch Land Rovers.

Our Armed Forces now use a number of highly capable and extremely well protected patrol vehicles, including Mastiff, Ridgback, Husky and Wolfhound.

– Ministry of Defence