1 May 2003 Edition

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Mother of murder victim puts questions to Blair

The mother of murdered north Belfast teenager Peter McBride has put a number of questions to British Prime Minister Tony Blair regarding the fate of the two soldiers convicted of murdering her son. In the letter, Jean McBride has challenged the Prime Minister to clarify the following:

1) To confirm whether Scots Guards Mark Wright and James Fisher, currently seconded to the Irish Guards regiment, are presently serving with that regiment in and around the city of Basra in Iraq?

2) To clarify whether the Ministry of Defence regards two convicted murderers as suitable for combat duty in Basra given the very real danger of repetition of the events that led to the murder of Peter?

3) The same alleged 'exceptional circumstances' apply in Basra as in Belfast, ie. the "security situation is tense" and "the regiment has recently suffered fatalities"; would the Prime Minister therefore regard it as an 'exceptional circumstance' if either Wright or Fisher were to shoot an unarmed Iraqi child in the back, as they did with Peter?

4) The most senior officer in the British Army, General Mike Jackson, sat on the Army Board that ruled that the retention in the army of the soldiers who shot my son was "desirable". Is the Prime Minister concerned that this will send a clear message to British soldiers in Iraq that the murder of unarmed civilians at checkpoints is acceptable?

Commenting on the letter, Jean McBride said: "When the Ministry of Defence tried to justify allowing the two soldiers who murdered Peter to remain on they promised us that there was no danger of repetition and that neither would be posted here again. If the situation on the New Lodge was so tense in 1992 that murder could be excused, what is it like in Basra today? God help the civilian population of Basra. Their so-called 'liberators' include convicted murderers of children."

The Army Board decision to retain the soldiers convicted of the murder of Peter McBride is currently the subject of a legal challenge in the Appeal Court. Following an oral hearing earlier this year, the three appeal court judges have recently asked both parties to submit further arguments.

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