Tony Blair was described as “the worst terrorist in the world” by a woman whose brother was killed in the Iraq war, as the family members of British soldiers gave their response to the Chilcot report. Sarah O'Connor broke down in tears as she addressed ...
Tony Blair was described as “the worst terrorist in the world” by a woman whose brother was killed in the Iraq war, as the family members of British soldiers gave their response to the Chilcot report.
Sarah O’Connor broke down in tears as she addressed an emotional press conference shortly after the long-awaited report was published.
“There is one terrorist in this world that the world needs to be aware of, and his name is Tony Blair, the world’s worst terrorist,” she said, to cheers from some of the other relatives.
Chilcot explained: findings
O’Connor, whose brother, Sgt Bob O’Connor, was killed with nine other airmen when his plane was shot down near Baghdad in 2005, said her overriding emotion having read some of the report was anger. “That healing that for 11 and a half years I have worked for … I have gone back to that time when I learned that my brother had been killed.”
About 25 bereaved family members were at the Queen Elizabeth II conference centre in central London, where they were given a few hours to read the report before it was published. Several of those present carried pictures of their loved ones, or wore T-shirts or badges with their images.
Most welcomed the report, with a number of family members standing to applaud as Sir John Chilcot left the stage after giving a statement, but there was also widespread anger, while several relatives wept openly.
“Everything he said today, we have been saying for all these years,” said Rose Gentle, mother of Fusilier Gordon Gentle, who was killed by a roadside bomb in 2004 aged 19. An inquest later found that his death was unlawful and that logistics failures had contributed to it.
“Now we can turn and say we have got the proof, we’ve got it in our hands,” said Gentle. “Twelve years of fighting for my son have been worth it. I’d do it again if I had to.”
Pauline Graham, Rose Gentle’s mother, said: “Now we know where we stand and what we can do. Tony Blair should be taken to court for trial for murder. He can’t get away with this any more.”
Reg Keys, the father of L/Cpl Tom Keys who died in 2003 aged 20, told reporters that when he considered the ongoing terrorist deaths in Iraq, “I can only conclude that unfortunately, and sadly, my son died in vain”.
That sentiment was echoed by Theresa Thompson, the mother of Pte Kevin Thompson, who was killed by an improvised explosive device (IED) in Basra in 2007, at the age of 21. “It was an illegal war. He died in vain. He died for no purpose,” she said.
Related: Jeremy Corbyn is a patriot – he would never have waged the illegal war that killed my son | Reg Keys
“I won’t stop until Tony Blair is held responsible for this,” said her husband, Mark Thompson. “He should come forward to the families and prove himself, instead of being a coward [and giving a statement] behind a camera. Be a man, stand up for what he has done.
“Just look at the parents, look at what he has destroyed. We have lost grandchildren, we have lost a daughter-in-law. He’s still got his family, he’s got everything.”
The date of their son’s death, 6 May, was also Blair’s birthday, Thompson said. “He’ll be opening his presents and cards, we take flowers to my son’s garden.”
“Chilcot’s report … he’s done exactly as he said he would – it wasn’t a whitewash by any means,” said Eddie Hancock, from Wigan, whose 19-year-old son Jamie was a Kingsman with the Duke of Lancaster’s Regiment when he was killed in Basra in 2006.
“Obviously, some people will never be happy unless there’s a rope there. But what he has actually said is that Blair undermined the United Nations. Now, if somebody does that, you would think that the act was illegal. He’s also misled parliament, he’s fabricated facts and misrepresented them.
“I hope, and I would like to call on all politicians in this country, that for the grievous damage this man has inflicted on this nation, on its armed forces, he be banned from any form of public office for life. At the very least.”
Tony Fisher, whose brother Sgt Simon Hamilton-Jewell was killed alongside five other military police officers in Majar al-Kabir in 2003, fought back tears as he described the report as “very powerful”.
Fisher said: “It’s 13 years, and it still hurts, you never get rid of it. And you don’t want to see other people going through the same thing, for the sake of one man’s arrogance. Mr Blair keeps apologising for everybody else around him, but he is the man responsible. The arrogant man hasn’t got the ability to apologise for his own mistakes.”
Fisher is one of many family members who hope the report could lead to prosecutions of Blair and others. Matthew Jury, of the legal firm McCue & Partners, who represents the families of 29 victims, said it was too early to judge whether prosecutions might be possible.
“The next steps are to spend the next days and weeks giving this full and proper consideration as to what happens next. Legal proceedings may be possible, but we need to do a full and forensic analysis of the report to determine what is next.”
As he left the conference centre surrounded by other family members, Peter Brierley, the father of 28-year-old L/Cpl Shaun Brierley who was killed when his Land Rover crashed in Kuwait in 2003, said he was satisfied with the report. “When I came here this morning, if you had asked me, ‘What do you want out of it?’, it wouldn’t be too far away from what I have already read.” As such, he said, rather than sharing the anger of some of the other families, he felt “relief … that we’ve finally got what we wanted”.
He added: “One day in the future, I want to be able to go home, sit in my chair and turn my telly on and say, ‘I have done the best I can. No matter the final outcome, I’ve done everything I possibly can.’ With this today, that seems to be a lot closer now.”
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