Widow renews attack after meeting Hoon
By Kim Sengupta, The Independent, 20 January 2004

The widow of a British soldier killed in the Iraq war due to a shortage of body armour called for Geoff Hoon, the Secretary of State for Defence, to "consider his position'" yesterday after meeting him in London.

Samantha Roberts made her plea as it was revealed that supplies of body armour arrived for the war in Iraq in the "last of the ships", according to the Ministry of Defence's analysis.

A "lessons learnt" document produced by the MoD disclosed huge problems in deployment to the Gulf. It read: "The plan was therefore not totally coherent and comprehensive and the order of arrival of equipment was not always optimised ... additional combat body armour arrived on the last of the ships."

The MoD stated the reason for the problems was the necessity to switch deployment from Turkey to Kuwait once the Ankara government had refused permission for coalition forces to use Turkey as a launchpad for the invasion.

Mrs Roberts, whose husband Steven was shot dead after being ordered to hand back his flak jacket, also bitterly attacked the Government for failing to provide adequate protection for troops.

Mr Hoon has still failed to apologise for the death of her husband, said Mrs Roberts, and she was "not much happier" than after a previous meeting with him. But she was prepared to give him "one last chance to explain what happened and make sure things like this [do] not happen again".

Mrs Roberts, 32, from Shipley, West Yorkshire, made it clear that unless Mr Hoon provided a satisfactory account of what went wrong, he should go.

"He is the Secretary of State in charge of the armed forces, and he bears the responsibility if something goes wrong, just like a manager of a company," she said. "Mr Hoon should really consider his position. He could say who is responsible for Steve's death and apologise for the fact that Steve did not have the enhanced body armour. He has said he is sorry about the way we were told about his death, but he has not said he was sorry about the way he was killed."

The Defence Secretary is under immense pressure to resign over the issue of British soldiers killed and maimed in Iraq because of a lack of supplies. He is also under fire for reportedly denigrating David Kelly, the dead weapons expert, as "no martyr". He spent an hour and 17 minutes with Mrs Roberts, Sgt Roberts' brother, Tristan Tancock, and his mother, Marion Chapman, yesterday afternoon. Mrs Roberts, who had made public an oral diary kept by her late husband complaining about the lack of body armour, had accused Mr Hoon of having "blood on his hands".

Sgt Roberts, 33, a member of the 2nd Battalion of the Royal Tank Regiment, was shot in the chest by rioters in Basra on 24 March last year. He had been asked to give up his body armour to an infantryman, who was deemed more in need of the extra protection.