Grieving Leyland grandad thanks Sir John Chilcot for his report
A dead soldier's grieving grandad has thanked Sir John Chilcot in person for bringing former Prime Minister Tony Blair to book over the Iraq War.
Robert Wright, who lost his soldier grandson Stephen to a roadside bomb near Basra in 2006, came face-to-face with the inquiry chairman in London yesterday, just minutes after he delivered a damning verdict on Britain’s involvement in the overthrow of Saddam Hussein.
As Sir John came off the stage at the Queen Elizabeth II Conference Centre, Robert, 77, stepped in, carrying a framed photograph of Gunner Stephen Wright of the Royal Artillery.
“I just had to go and thank him and ask a question - that’s just what I’m like,” said Robert.
“On behalf of all the families of the 179 troops who died out there I wanted to ask if his report now leaves it open for legal action to be taken against Tony Blair.
“Sir John wouldn’t comment himself on that one. But he did say he felt for all the relatives of the servicemen and women who were killed in Iraq.”
Robert, from Leyland, has been campaigning for years to have the man who took British forces into action in Iraq in 2003 brought to justice.
Giant banners on the gable end of his house in Balcarres Road have condemned Tony Blair, claiming he deceived the public over the reason to go to war.
That campaign will go on. But the proud grandfather, who still mourns the loss of 20-year-old Stephen 10 years on, admitted he was “reasonably happy” with the outcome of the Chilcot Inquiry.
“It proved to be a lot better than we thought it would be,” he said after being in the audience with other bereaved relatives as the report was made public after a seven-year inquiry.
“We were expecting more of a cover-up to be honest.
“I thought him and his fellow panel members did better than we thought they would and so I told him that.
“In some ways it gives us, the families, a little bit more closure, although for Blair it’s wide open now, whether or not he faces any action.”
For many of the families who came together in Central London yesterday, the publication, at long last, of the report into the Iraq War was better than they had expected.
Eddie Hancock, from Wigan, whose 19-year-old son Jamie Hancock was a Kingsman with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment when he was killed in Basra in 2006, said: “He’s done exactly as he said he would - it wasn’t a whitewash by any means. He’s fulfilled the promises that he made in 2009.”
Peter MacLachlan, whose son Alec from Llanelli served in Iraq and returned to the country as a private security guard in 2006 where he was kidnapped and killed, said: “The report was very factual. It didn’t hold anything back.”
He said he did not think the war was based on a lie but added “in the future they should think of the consequences for a lot longer”.
And Rose Gentle, whose son, Gordon Gentle, died while serving in Iraq with the Royal Highland Fusiliers, said the report meant Tony Blair “got his comeuppance today”.
Fusilier Gentle, from Pollok in Glasgow, was 19 when an IED exploded under his Land Rover in Basra in June 2004. Mrs Gentle said: “I hope he (Blair) goes to his bed and thinks, ‘What the hell have I done?’ because he will never be forgiven.
“He will be remembered not as a prime minister but as a person who sent them on an illegal war. I would love to see him in court.”
Robert Wright left London yesterday afternoon glad he had made the trip to hear at first hand why his grandson died.And he admitted there was still a feeling that he and all the other troops killed in Iraq had “maybe died in vain.”
“There’s a little bit of that,” he said. “If we had left a peaceful country then I would have said their sacrifice had meant something. But looking at the state of Iraq today it makes you think, ‘Why did they all die for that?’”
•In a statement, Mr Blair said: “I accept that the report makes serious criticisms of the way decisions were taken and again I accept full responsibility for these points of criticism, even where I do not fully agree with them.”