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Deal bombing letters from Thatcher and Bush to go on display

Letters of condolence from President Bush and Margaret Thatcher sent to the Royal Marines in the wake of the IRA Deal bombing in 1989 will go on display in Portsmouth.

Margaret Thatcher looks at floral tributes after the bombing in 1989 Credit: Press Association

A watch worn by one of the bandsmen injured in the blast, badly damaged but still showing the exact time the bomb went off, will also go on view.

The items are being presented to the Royal Marines School of Music for display in its new Memorial Room to mark the 25th anniversary of the bombing.

The explosion at Deal barracks in Kent - then home to the school of music - took place on September 22 1989. As well as the 11 servicemen killed, 22 were seriously injured. The barracks and several nearby homes were extensively damaged.

Cap and bugle at scene of bomb blast Credit: Press Association

In days following the blast, Prime Minister Margaret Thatcher and US President George H W Bush wrote letters to the Royal Marines Principal Director of Music, Lieutenant Colonel John Ware.

Mrs Thatcher wrote to Lt Col Ware after he accompanied her to visit the wounded in hospital.

Deal barracks following the blast Credit: Press Association

"It has been a devastating blow for everyone in the Royal Marines as well as for the people of Deal. "I wanted to show on my visit that the whole country is intent on sharing your sorrow, but also in admiration for the courage and fortitude of the Royal Marines and their band which gives so much pleasure to so many people year after year," she wrote.

Lt Col Ware has now chosen to present the letters to the school of music - which re-located to Portsmouth in 1996 - for permanent display in honour of those killed and injured.

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Morocco prison was like 'a concentration camp', says jailed Briton

Ray Cole, left, is reunited with his family. Credit: Dominic Lipinski/PA Wire/Press Association Images

British holidaymaker Ray Cole, who was jailed in Morocco for being gay, has described the prison he was kept in as a "concentration camp".

The 69-year-old, from Deal in Kent, was imprisoned for four months after homosexual images were found on his password-protected phone.

After being reunited with his family at Gatwick Airport, he described the conditions he had been living in.

You would not believe it, it's horrendous. It's not a prison, it's a concentration camp. People are in there from the age of 10 to 80 and 90s for nothing. I can hardly move my arm from sleeping on the floor.

– Ray Cole.

Mr Cole was freed after his family's legal team in Marrakesh lodged an appeal.

He said his release came as a surprise and he had thought he was being transferred to a different prison.

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Son speaks of relief at father's release from Moroccan jail

The son of Ray Cole, the pensioner who was freed today after being held in a Moroccan jail for 'gay acts', has spoken of his relief at the release of his father.

Adrian Cole, 41, said: "I feel like I am going to be sick - I can't quite believe what we have been able to achieve."

He added: "We would like to express our gratitude as a family to the thousands of people who have offered us their support and kindness.

"I would also like to offer my thanks to the Moroccan authorities. I am told my father left prison in good spirits and with all the possessions he went in there with."

Man released from Moroccan jail pending appeal

A man from Deal who was jailed for 'gay acts' has been released pending an appeal, scheduled for tomorrow.

Access to consular assistance and a legal defence has been duly provided to Mr Cole, who has exercised his right of appeal and is due to appear in front of the Judge of the Court of Appeals tomorrow, 8 October 2014. In the meantime, Mr Cole is to be granted conditional release. today.

– Moroccan Embassy

Jailed Kent man 'tearful' at support

A man from Kent has been "blown away" by the level of international support he has received since being jailed in Morocco for being gay, his son said.

A Facebook campaign has generated widespread support

Ray Cole, 69, was imprisoned for four months with his Moroccan friend Jamal Jam Wald Nass after homosexual images were found on his password-protected phone.

As the pair languish in a crowded, barbed-wire topped Marrakesh jail, Mr Cole's son, Adrian Cole, 41, spoke of his concern for his father and his hope that they will be freed on appeal.

Mr Cole, from Windsor, Berkshire, said: "My father spoke to my mother and he was blown away when told of the level of interest and care and concern about him. He became quite tearful."

The case has generated huge interest on social media from supporters hoping to persuade the Moroccan authorities to free retired Mr Cole, from Deal.

As well as a petition, a #freeraycole hashtag has been circulating on Twitter and a Facebook page has also been set up calling for the release of Mr Cole, who has a minor heart condition.

He struck up a friendship with Mr Nass, aged in his 20s, on Facebook. It was on Mr Cole's second visit to Morocco to see him that they were detained at a bus stop by officers.

Mr Cole, who turns 70 on October 25, was four weeks into a five-week break in the north African country when the pair were held on September 18.

Former deputy speaker of the House of Commons Nigel Evans, a gay MP, said he would be writing to the Moroccan ambassador to plea for his release as soon as possible.

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