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‘MoD errors that cost our son his life'

THE parents of a soldier killed in Macedonia have called on the Ministry of Defence to admit that he would still be alive today if tighter security procedures had been in place.

Sapper Ian Collins, 22, of 9 Parachute Sqn, Royal Engineers, died after being hit by concrete hurled through the windscreen of a jeep shortly after he arrived on a peace mission in the Balkans last August.

Sue and Kevin Collins met Defence Secretary Geoff Hoon last week to ask what went wrong and question the MoD's handling of the investigation.

They say vital errors hindered the investigation and the chances of bringing their son's killers to justice.

Mr Hoon promised to look into the matter.

Mrs Collins told the Mail: "I feel very strongly our son's death could have been avoided. If things had been done correctly, it may not have happened."

Mrs Collins had read statements by Captain Matt Wilkinson, who was with Spr Collins when he died, and by the MoD's investigating officer Martin Kinsay.

"I want answers, not money. All I want is for them to put up their hands and say 'yes we've made mistakes and we're sorry', and make sure it doesn't happen again."

She said she was astounded at the MoD's failure to warn soldiers of the depth of anti-Nato feeling, saying it wasn't the first time a soldier had been targeted in Skopje, the Macedonian capital.

"It had happened before on that stretch of road. Even British Embassy staff took off British number plates and put on Macedonian ones. It was obvious he was with the British army.

"Peacekeepers from other Nato countries were wearing helmets and their vehicles were grilled. If he'd had that, he'd be alive today."

She also claimed the army should have been better prepared for an emergency.

"The captain who was with him had nothing on him, not even a mobile phone. He had to ask someone if he could use their phone and only had English contact numbers. It happened at 7.30 and it wasn't till 8'clock that any medical help got to him."

She said he was then taken to several hospitals before finally being taken to one a few hours later which could treat his injuries. This was only ten minutes from the scene.

The Collins family is also angry at the ministry's failure to contact the Macedonian police and themselves immediately.

"They didn't go to the police until three days after it happened. They should have got on to them straight away. The Land Rover was cleaned up and put back on the road with no windscreen," said Mrs Collins.

She feared a lot of basic witness information could have been lost as a result of the failure to act immediately.

"They (the Macedonian authorities) went to three sites because they didn't know where it was. The MoD is always saying it's governed by Macedonian law, so why didn't they ring the Macedonian police straight away?"

She also asked Mr Hoon why they did not know anything about the killing until 12 hours afterwards.

Mr Hoon reportedly said this was probably because the army did not want to notify them until they knew what had happened.

A spokeswoman for the MoD was unable to comment on the meeting with Mr Hoon, but said their questions would be answered as soon as possible.

Three teenagers who originally confessed to the police were let off last year because of a legal technicality and the case was closed.

However, relentless campaigning by Mr and Mrs Collins led to it being reopened and a private prosecution will be held in Skopje this year.

In the meantime the defendants are suing the Collins family for compensation, demanding £6,200 for dragging them through the courts.

The couple will be in Macedonia this week to discuss it with their solicitor.

"It's absolutely shocking - talk about rubbing salt in the wounds. No way am I going to pay compensation to any lad who killed my son," said Mrs Collins.


Charlotte Neal
Chief Reporter (Aldershot)
Joshua Smith
Farnborough Reporter
Jon Couch
Sport Editor
Stephen Lloyd
Fleet & Yateley Reporter
Ros Collins
Junior News & Mail
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