Police widow welcomes Chinook tragedy verdict
The widow of a Royal Ulster Constabulary counter-terrorism expert killed in the 1994 Chinook crash on the Mull of Kintyre, has spoken of her hope that the pilots blamed for the deaths of those on board the ill-fated flight will be exonerated.
On June 2, 1994, senior police, Army and MI5 officers were among the 29 killed when a Chinook crashed in thick fog on a remote hillside on the Mull of Kintyre, Scotland.
Retired judge Lord Philip's official independent review of the RAF's worst peacetime accident is expected to be published this week and to conclude that the dead pilots were not guilty of "gross negligence".
Dr Susan Phoenix, the widow of RUC man Ian Phoenix who was killed in the crash, said the families of the people who died on the flight from Belfast to Inverness should have been told first, before the report findings were leaked.
She said: "If it is true I am delighted. I am delighted the pilots have been cleared.
"However, I am disappointed the families were not told first."
Since 1995 campaigners have been trying to clear the names of Flight Lieutenants Richard Cook (28), from Hampshire, and Jonathan Tapper (30), from Norfolk, after it was suggested by an RAF board inquiry that they were flying too low.
They are calling on Defence Secretary Liam Fox to clear the pilots of blame. The report and recommendations compiled by Lord Philip over nine months will be sent to Mr Fox in the hope he will overturn the findings of two RAF Air Marshals in a statement to MPs this week.
A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Defence said it would be "inappropriate" to comment before any announcement was made in Parliament.
An MoD statement said: "The Defence Secretary asked Lord Philip to conduct a review of the evidence considered by the board of inquiry into the Mull of Kintyre Chinook accident.
"An announcement on the report's findings is due to be made to Parliament shortly. Until that time it would be inappropriate to comment."
Scottish National Party defence spokesman Angus Robertson MP said he was disappointed with how the families of the flight lieutenants had been treated.
He said: "It is a disgrace the way the families of Flight Lieutenants Jonathan Tapper and Richard Cook have been treated by successive administrations and it is time that the record was officially set straight."
On June 2 1994, 29 people died following a helicopter crash on a flight from Belfast to Inverness. The Chinook helicopter, carrying 25 of Britain's most senior intelligence experts and four crew, crashed on Scotland's Mull of Kintyre in thick fog. In April 1995, an inquiry said the pilots were to blame for gross negligence.