Grandfather’s demand for justice a decade after Iraq

Gunner Stephen Wright
Gunner Stephen Wright
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THE grandfather of a Lancashire soldier killed in Iraq has demanded former Prime Minister Tony Blair faces prosecution, on the day the long-awaited Chilcot Report is published.

Robert Wright, 77, made an emotional trip to London today to hear the findings of the seven-year inquiry into the Iraq War, searching for answers as to why 20-year-old Royal Artillery gunner Stephen Wright, from Leyland, was killed by a roadside bomb in 2006. “I think Blair should be held accountable,” said Robert, who has decorated the gable end of his home in Balcarres Road, Leyland with banners including one that reads: “Put Blair On Trial For All The Lies.”

The Chilcot Inquiry has taken seven years to complete, cost taxpayers an estimated £10m and runs to 12 volumes and 2.6 million words.

It was due to be published at around 11.15am today.

And today, as he gathered with other relatives in London to finally hear the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry, the 77-year-old was still as passionate as ever about the fate that should befall the Prime Minister who led Britain to war against Saddam Hussein.

“I think Blair should be held accountable, I really do,” said Robert who for six years has decorated the gable end of his home in Leyland with giant banners calling for justice for the 179 troops killed in Iraq.

“He should be put on trial. He deceived us all. And he sent our troops in badly-equipped and ill-prepared.”

Royal Artillery Gunner Stephen “Trigger” Wright was killed when his Land Rover was blown apart by a roadside bomb near Basra in September 2006.

The vehicle he and a fellow soldier died in was only lightly armoured and offered little protection from the improvised explosive devices (IEDs) deployed by insurgents in Iraq.

Two years later the “snatch” model of Land Rover in which 30 British soldiers lost their lives in five years, was withdrawn from service.

Grandfather Robert is adamant Stephen might still be alive today had the troops been properly equipped – or had Saddam been removed in Gulf War One in 1991.

But his complaint is mainly with Tony Blair who, in 2003, backed a US invasion and sent British troops in alleging, wrongly as it turned out, that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction.

One of the signs on the outside of his home in Ballcarres Road reads: “Iraq Inquiry. Results Please. Put Blair On Trial For All The Lies.” Another says: “Chilcot Get Your Finger Out.” And alongside them hangs a poppy wreath bearing Stephen’s photograph.

Back in 2010, when his first banner was erected, it displayed a picture of Tony Blair and the message: “Wanted. The man responsible for the death of Stephen Robert Wright ‘Trigger’ plus 178 other boys and girls.”

Before setting off for London for today’s briefing of families at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Robert said: “I’m not sure what to expect from the Chilcot report. It’s been a long time coming.

“Some people have said it will be a cover-up. I don’t know about that, although I’m sure it won’t go far enough.

“But politicians should be accountable. If the ordinary man in the street made a decision that cost so many lives he wouldn’t be allowed to just say sorry and it’s all forgotten about.

“To be fair they are as bad as each other. I’m not just picking on one political party. They all tell us lies.

“It will be 10 years in September since my grandson was killed. And it doesn’t get any easier. People say time is a great healer, but it doesn’t. You just learn to live with it, although there are still tears.

“Saddam was an evil dictator. But the lives it cost to get rid of him? Ask the people of Iraq and I’m sure they will say it was better under him than what they’ve got now.

“Blair knew long before the announcement that we were going to war. Yet we were still unprepared when it all happened.

“In Stephen’s case the lads constantly asked about the safety of the Land Rovers they were going out in. When soldiers inside are putting lumps of metal by their sides for protection it says it all.

“At his inquest the coroner said Stephen would probably have been alive if he had been in a proper vehicle.

“I want to be in London to hear at first hand what has taken all this time. It is sure to be an emotional experience for all the relatives of those troops who lost their lives in Iraq.

“Whether they died for nothing I don’t know. But look what we’ve unleashed on the world now.”